At 89, Astor’s Son Wouldn’t Be the Oldest in Prison
From The New York Times:
Having exhausted all appeals of his conviction for stealing millions of dollars from his mother, Anthony D. Marshall, the octogenarian son of the philanthropist Brooke Astor, is scheduled to surrender this week to begin serving a prison sentence of one to three years.
Mr. Marshall will be taken upstate, given a short haircut and issued prison clothes and an identification card. His age will accord him no special treatment; in fact, Mr. Marshall, 89, would only be the fourth-oldest inmate currently in the state prison system.
There are at least 10 inmates of state prisons who are 85 or older; seven reside in one of the system’s five regional medical units, which are designed and staffed to function similar to skilled nursing facilities.
There are more than 2,100 who are 60 or older, a growing segment of the inmate population. They present a minimal security risk but put a maximum strain on prison resources, both because of their medical needs and because they are still heavily guarded even after their potential for physical violence has faded, said Soffiyah Elijah, the executive director of the Correctional Association of New York, a nonprofit group that monitors conditions in state prisons.
“It’s not like the guy with the walker is going to suddenly strike somebody with it and take off across the cornfield,” Ms. Elijah said.
The three oldest current inmates are all from the Buffalo area. At the top of the list is John Bunz, 93, who arrived in prison three years ago after bludgeoning his 89-year-old wife to death with a hammer at their home in a retirement community.
Two other inmates are only months older than Mr. Marshall: Otes G. Rodriguez, 89, convicted in 2005 of pouring gasoline on a woman and trying to light her on fire with a flare gun; and Clifford Doze, 89, who has been in prison since 1985 for sexually abusing four young girls.
Mr. Marshall’s lawyers, who are making a last-ditch effort to keep him at home, say he would be the oldest person ever admitted to a New York prison for a nonviolent crime.
Mr. Marshall and a lawyer for his mother’s estate, Francis X. Morrissey Jr., were convicted in 2009 on charges that they had stolen tens of millions of dollars from Mrs. Astor while she had Alzheimer’s disease late in her life. Mrs. Astor died in 2007 at age 105.
The charges included allegations that they had tricked Mrs. Astor into signing an amendment, or codicil, to her will in January 2004 that directed millions of dollars to themselves. Mr. Marshall was also convicted of first-degree grand larceny for giving himself a $1 million raise to manage his mother’s finances. That charge carries a mandatory prison sentence.
Mr. Marshall’s health issues — which his lawyers say include Parkinson’s disease, quadruple bypass surgery in 2008, and his reliance on a wheelchair — would seem to make Mr. Marshall a prime candidate to reside in one of the regional medical units.
One of those units, at Fishkill Correctional Facility 70 miles north of the city, also houses a special unit for inmates with cognitive impairments, including Parkinson’s disease. The 30-bed unit resembles a nursing home, with soothing neutral wall colors, and inmates who behave have been allowed to wander from their rooms to the day room, where they can watch television or play board games.
Mr. Marshall and Mr. Morrissey were allowed to remain free on bail pending the outcome of their appeals. In March, a midlevel appellate court rejected the appeal, which was partly based on a claim from a juror that she felt threatened by another juror during deliberations. The appellate court said the argument, as described, did not rise to the level of a threat. The state’s highest court declined to hear the appeal.
On Friday, Mr. Marshall’s lawyers made an unscheduled appearance before the trial judge, Justice A. Kirke Bartley Jr., to file a sworn affidavit from the juror, Judi DeMarco, in which she recounts the confrontation and says she felt coerced into voting to convict Mr. Marshall.
“If that’s true, then they have to throw it out and have a new trial,” said William D. Zabel, one of Mr. Marshall’s lawyers.
The affidavit adds no new significant details to Ms. DeMarco’s account that has already been rejected by the courts, but the lawyers hope that her first signed affidavit in support of the claim may be enough to persuade Justice Bartley to schedule hearings and let Mr. Marshall remain free a little longer.
The judge is expected to discuss the new affidavit on Monday, when the men were scheduled to turn themselves in. But after Mr. Marshall’s lawyers turned over his extensive medical records last week, his surrender date was delayed to Thursday to allow officials time to review them.
At a hearing in April, Mr. Marshall wore a dark pinstripe suit with a scarf wrapped high around his neck. A small canvas bag with dolphin logos hung from the arm of his wheelchair. He appeared confused by the discussions. At the end, his wife, Charlene, bent over and cupped his face.
“You’re not going to jail today,” she said, her eyes tearing.
She may have to explain a more complicated situation this week.
A version of this article appeared in print on June 17, 2013, on page A13 of the New York edition with the headline: At 89, Astor’s Son Wouldn’t Be the Oldest in Prison.
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