rant on the Astor estate trial

The Manhattan trial in which Anthony Marshall and Francis X. Morrissey are being tried for looting the estate of Brooke Astor, Marshall’s mother, finished the week with high profile witnesses delivering poignant testimony.  This classic Involuntary Redistribution of Assets (IRA) case shows how probate instruments – in this case, mainly a will – can be used to loot assets of the dead or disabled/incapacitated.

We realize that the defense has yet to present evidence, but the consistent picture being painted of Brooke Astor in her last years is compelling.  And we would guess that given the public nature of her life, many more people who had known Brooke over the years could similarly testify to her visible decline.

This week’s testimony of Philip Marshall, whose scrutiny of his father Anthony Marshall’s conduct ultimately resulted in the current criminal charges, received great attention.  While it sounds as though defense attorney Kenneth Warner worked hard to diminish the motivations and actions of Philip Marshall, he appears to have gained no real ground and instead might have more been seen as trolling for a “gotcha” moment.

After his testimony, Philip Marshall shared with journalists insights regarding the relationships of his father with both Brooke Astor and current wife Charlene.  We’ve been using the New York Post and New York Daily News as our primary sources of articles on this case.  Each papers’ reportage is characteristically tabloid fare and gossipy, but IRA cases usually involve some type undue influence or trickery/betrayal so we find the psychological aspects – gossipy as they may be – of interest and value.

We have generally enjoyed New York Post reporter Laura Italiano’s articles, but her terming Philip Marshall the “turncoat son of Anthony Marshall” was, to us, a disappointing and undeserved remark.  While perhaps an endangered species, we appreciate people willing to do the right thing and take a stand against opportunists uncaring of the havoc they wreak in the lives of others.  Would Laura Italiano have more respected Philip Marshall for allowing the continued exploitation of his grandmother?  Is she comfortable with the suspension of American property rights such that a person has the freedom to determine the final distribution of their assets only if they manage to not be duped by financial predators?  And does Laura Italiano really advocate that anyone legitimately (and accurately!) stepping in to stop such bad acts should be labeled a “turncoat,” traitor or the like?  America – land of the free, home of the brave – once aspired to higher standards.  Brooke Astor is described as having become increasingly confused, forgetful and sometimes childlike.  Is a person who would step in to stop the exploitation of a child also a turncoat? understands that the Post and Daily News are trying to sell papers along with print and internet advertising  – and salacious content drives those sales.  The “hits” on Charlene Marshall have been unrelenting, but as unflattering as they have been, no one is contesting that they are untrue.  Philip Marshall, we believe, deserves better as his concerns were on target.

And what’s up with these posters?  Admittedly, we have our own forum here with, but even upon finding people’s actions despicable, we work to maintain a level of credibility  by conveying our disdain in a perhaps strong – and like Philip Marshall, we also appreciate a little levity or irreverence as a tension reliever – but reasonable manner.  People who go on these news sites finding fault with everyone involved and missing a major point of this case are mind-boggling!  The hyenas from The Lion King come to mind as many of these folks commenting about the Marshall/Morrissey trial are somewhat entertaining while also being truly self-absorbed and largely oblivious to bigger issues of the case including overall points of right and wrong along with the threat to basic American freedoms including our property rights.

All this would appear to keep as a unique voice speaking out about this trial and its importance.  Rather than come up with some new words, the closing of our recent column, Grave Robbing Affects More than Astor-nomical Estates says it all:

While recognizing that one is innocent until proven guilty, the alleged grave robbing activities of Anthony Marshall and Francis X. Morrissey are more common than many people realize.  From all accounts, Anthony Marshall received a generous share of assets from the Astor fortune.  It appears that, to him, it was not enough and justified a betrayal of the fiduciary position with which he was entrusted.   Over a span of decades, Brooke Astor was known for numerous charitable works and good deeds.  How ironic that her one last gift to the public may be helping to expose modernized versions of Involuntary Redistribution of Assets actions by grave robbers and other property poachers targeting estates of Astor-nomical sizes as well as those of more modest proportions.

Meanwhile, we hope everyone has a wonderful Memorial Day weekend.  A activist training session is scheduled tomorrow morning at the Texas State Capitol in Austin.  It is sponsored by our friends at Americans for Prosperity-TX and will be there.

How incredible to spend this weekend remembering those who died for our country and also working to maximize our ability to effectively speak out and educate people so that the freedoms for which our fallen soldiers died can be preserved for future generations.

God Bless America!