today in astor-ia

The Astor Trial: What Happens Now?

After the verdict was announced yesterday in the months-long Brooke Astor will trial, convicted fraudster and larcenist Anthony Marshall took the news stoically. His wife, Charlene, trembled, and his convicted conspirator, lawyer Francis Morrissey, nearly cried. But what happens after that? It turns out, many things (and many dollars) are still up in the air. Here’s where the key players stand:

Anthony Marshall. Marshall, who was convicted on fourteen of the sixteen charges against him, will face jail time. At 84 and in increasingly failing health, even the mandatory minimum of one year (he could get sentenced to up to 25) will likely take a terrible toll on him. He’ll be sentenced on December 8, though his lawyers have asked that he be allowed to remain out of jail pending an appeal. If we were him, we’d spend our last weeks of freedom up in Northeast Harbor in Maine, at the family estate that Marshall strong-armed his mother into bequeathing to him while she was still alive, and where Marshall met his now-wife Charlene and seduced her away from her then-husband, the family minister.

Charlene Marshall. Charlene, while not charged in this case, also made off pretty well from her relationship as daughter-in-law to Brooke Astor, even though the aging society doyenne quite openly loathed her. (“No neck and no class,” she once famously said.) When Mrs. Astor was 101, Marshall convinced her to give him $5 million “so he could provide for Charlene.” Marshall also installed her as a co-executor of Astor’s estate, which provided $1 million annually in fees. He additionally quickly signed over the Northeast Harbor estate to Charlene once Astor gave it to him, so that it would not pass on to his son Philip once he died (even though that was Astor’s wish). The Post reports today that she’ll have to give back any funds ruled ill-gotten, which might leave her with only the real estate she shared with her husband. That includes a $2 million duplex on East 79th Street that she bought them and on which she paid the maintenance, and the Northeast Harbor estate, which may be fought over in civil court and which is expensive to maintain. Also, the Post snipes, she has a diamond necklace and two of Astor’s fur coats. Both of which, “incidentally, are a size six.”

The Charities. According to the Times, it’s not yet clear what will become of Mrs. Astor’s $180 million estate. A civil case has been on hold in Westchester Surrogates Court since 2007 over the money; specifically, whether a 1997 will giving the bulk of Astor’s estate to charity, or later versions which give more to Marshall, should be honored. Before the case was put on hold, a judge said it was close to being settled. But now that Marshall has been convicted and the later wills and codicils contested, it’s unclear what will happen. Everyone is tiptoeing around the issue, because Mrs. Astor had written into her will that any party that challenges it will receive nothing. Andrew Cuomo, who has the power to act on behalf of charities, is not affected by that rule and could work to get them the money.

Francis X. Morrissey. Apparently, according to the Times, the estate planner “staggered ashen-faced out of the courtroom without comment.” Having been accused multiple times of defrauding old people and convincing them to change their wills, we can understand why he was so surprised he got convicted this time. He’ll also be sentenced on December 8.

The Astor Trial: What Happens Now?