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Anthony Marshall dies at 90; was convicted of looting mother Brooke Astor's fortune

In this April 29, 2009 file photo, Anthony

In this April 29, 2009 file photo, Anthony Marshall arrives with his wife Charlene to State Supreme court in New York where Marshall, the son of philanthropist Brooke Astor, was charged with plundering his mothers fortune. Marshall, whose aristocratic life as Astor's only child unraveled as he was convicted of raiding her fortune, has died, his lawyer said, Dec. 1, 2014. Credit: AP / Louis Lanzano

Anthony Marshall's trial was a lens on the lives of the famous and moneyed, featuring testimony from the likes of Barbara Walters and Henry Kissinger.

And it was a window into a sordid tale of greed and intergenerational strife: the son of an elderly philanthropist being accused of taking advantage of her failing mental state.

Marshall, who died Sunday, saw his aristocratic life unravel as he was convicted in 2009 of raiding the fortune of his socialite mother, Brooke Astor. Marshall was 90.

Marshall, a decorated World War II veteran who later became a diplomat and Broadway producer, died at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, said his attorney, Kenneth Warner. Marshall had heart and other health problems for years.

Marshall was sentenced to 1 to 3 years in prison after he was convicted of exploiting his aged mother's slipping mind to loot her millions. Appeals delayed his incarceration for more than 3½ years, but Marshall ultimately went to prison in June 2013.

He was granted medical parole two months later because of debilitating illness. A parole board asked whether he had regrets about the events leading to his imprisonment.

"Well, regrets, yeah," he said, "naturally."

Born into wealth, Marshall earned a Purple Heart in the battle of Iwo Jima and enjoyed a life of upper-class respectability that was shattered when one of his own sons, Philip Marshall, publicly accused him in 2006 of looting Astor's money while letting her live in squalor. The allegations of physical neglect were never substantiated, but they led to the criminal case over Astor's finances.

Astor was 105 and suffering from Alzheimer's disease when she died in 2007. Years earlier, she had been awarded the nation's highest civilian honor -- the Presidential Medal of Freedom -- for giving away nearly $200 million to charities.

Prosecutors said Marshall helped himself to his mother's fortune by means as simple as taking artwork off her walls and as complex as getting her to change her will to give him millions of dollars formerly destined for charity. Witnesses included Walters, Kissinger and other prominent Astor friends.

Marshall's lawyers said he had the legal power to give himself gifts with his mother's money, and he believed she wanted him to have them.

Defense lawyers also argued that Astor was lucid and acting out of love when she altered her will to benefit her only child.

Jurors disagreed and found Marshall guilty of grand larceny and scheming to defraud.

Marshall didn't testify or call any witnesses. But after his conviction, he bared his personal life and enlisted such prominent supporters as Al Roker and Whoopi Goldberg in an effort to stay free.

He described in court papers an often sad, if privileged, upbringing.

He painted his father -- Astor's first husband, New Jersey state Sen. J. Dryden Kuser -- as an alcoholic who pushed the pregnant Astor down a flight of stairs.

After they divorced, Astor married stockbroker Charles Marshall, who virtually banished her son to boarding schools and summer camps, Anthony Marshall said. He took his stepfather's name nonetheless.

Marshall later served as ambassador in posts including Kenya, Madagascar, and Trinidad and Tobago. He wrote seven books on topics ranging from African art to U.S. zoos, and he coproduced Tony Award-winning runs of "Long Day's Journey Into Night" and "I Am My Own Wife." He was married several times.

"Tony had the tenderest of hearts, a brilliant mind and an outrageous sense of humor," his widow, Charlene, wrote in a death notice in The New York Times. She is not the mother of his twin sons, Philip and Alexander, and she stood staunchly by him during the criminal case.

While Marshall said he and his mother were close, the trial depicted the relationship as difficult. His mother once told a friend, "I wish Tony had made something of himself instead of waiting for the money," according to testimony.

Marshall stepped aside as her guardian in 2006, after his son Philip filed court papers accusing him of neglecting her. Anthony Marshall denied any mistreatment.

The family rift remained even after his death.

"The fact I first heard the sad news of my father's death from the press speaks volumes about the devastating effect elder abuse can have on families," Philip Marshall said.

Aside from his wife and his sons, survivors include three stepchildren from Charlene Marshall's previous marriage and three stepgrandchildren.

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