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Scion of NYC socialite sent to prison for plundering mother's fortune

Mary Altaffer / AP

Anthony Marshall is kissed by his wife Charlene Marshall as he arrives at criminal court with his wife and attorneys on June 21 in New York.

The 89-year-old son of the late philanthropist and socialite Brooke Astor was sent prison Friday afternoon, four years after he was found guilty of pilfering millions from his ailing mother.

Anthony Marshall will serve a one- to three-year term in a New York-based penitentiary. 

Marshall was convicted in October 2009 after he allegedly siphoned off millions of dollars from the estate of his dementia-stricken mother, who once lorded over New York City's social aristocracy. At the time of her death in 2007, at age 105, Astor was reportedly living in squalor while Marshall treated himself to her fortune.

Marshall's lawyers have said that the prison sentence could kill the weak and frail heir. They stalled their client's time behind bars by repeatedly appealing the conviction and managed to secure a last-minute delay Monday.

Superior Court Judge A. Kirke Bartley ruled Thursday, however, that the grounds for the appeal — a claim that one of the jurors was intimidated by other jurors to vote guilty — did not warrant a new trial for Marshall, according to The Associated Press.

Marshall's lawyers have said that their client is the oldest person ever hauled off to New York prison for a non-violent crime, according to Reuters.

Francis Morrissey, Jr., Marshall’s co-defendant, began his prison sentence Thursday. Morrissey, 72, was convicted in 2009 of forging Astor’s signature on a revision to her will, among other offenses, according to the AP.

Astor for decades was one of the reigning queens of New York City’s elite. She was a benefactor of major charities and cultural institutions across the city, from the Metropolitan Museum of Art to the New York Public Library. She had been married to Vincent Astor – a descendant of one of the country’s first multimillionaires, John Jacob Astor – and together they controlled one of the prized fortunes in the Big Apple.

Marshall was Astor's only child, the product of her first marriage. He served as a U.S. Marine before reportedly trotting the globe as a C.I.A. intelligence officer and ambassador. He later worked as a theater producer, mounting a series of high-profile productions, including a 2003 revival of Eugene O'Neill's "Long Day's Journey into Night."

In revisions to Astor’s will reportedly made in the years before her death, Marshall was awarded tens of millions of dollars and top-shelf real estate. Marshall is accused of helping himself to his mother’s chief assets while she suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. His lawyers say that Astor amended her will on her own volition, according to the AP.

Marshall was convicted of 14 counts in 2009, including grand larceny and conspiracy to defraud his mother.