The New York Department of Corrections decided recently to release Anthony Marshall from prison, only eight weeks into his one-to-three year prison sentence for committing fraud and a host of other crimes in taking advantage of his elderly mother, Brooke Astor. Given how few crimes of financial exploitation of the elderly are actually prosecuted, it's a sad message to send.
The New York District Attorney's office spent six months in trial and many millions to prosecute Anthony Marshall and his accomplice, attorney Francis X. Morrissey Jr., in 2009. Facing enormous odds trying to prove an 85-year old multi-millionaire illegally exploited his mother, they secured a conviction for 14 counts out of 16, for financial exploitation, fraud, and a host of related crimes.
Immediately, Marshall began raising legal challenges and appeals pleading poor health and his advanced age as a reason to avoid the consequences of his crime. Judge after judge rejected each one, finally landing the criminal in jail on June 21st.
In other words, his wealth and circle of influential friends helped undo everything that the New York criminal system worked so hard to bring about -- a starkly needed message to those who take advantage of elderly adults with declining mental capabilities for the sake of their own inheritances. It's a growing problem in our society, and examples like the Brooke Astor case are sorely needed to discourage others from expanding the problem.
Yet, faced with growing one's piece of the inheritance pie or facing eight weeks in jail -- even if the unlikely case that there is a successful prosecution -- what sort of deterrence is there?
It's especially problematic because, reportedly, the New York District Attorney's Office wasn't even permitted to review the medical evidence submitted to the parole board. In other words, there was no chance of real opposition to the request. The best that the prosecutors could do, according to the New York Times, was to submit a letter opposing it and point out that Marshall didn't look so frail when he attending a black-tie gala event in February of this year (picture above).
On the other hand, Marshall reportedly is suffering from advanced Parkinson's disease and congestive heart failure, cannot perform his activities of daily living without assistance, and also suffers from a life-threatening swallowing problem. But certainly, he is not the only inmate in the State of New York with such problems. Yet less than 400 inmates have received this medical parole since the law allowing it went into affect more than 20 years ago.
The prison system does have hospitals, after all. Surely there was a way to treat Anthony Marshall without sending a message that criminal exploitation of the elderly isn't that bad, as this decision suggests.
The reality is that financial exploitation of the elderly is a growing epidemic in our country, with one study pegging the amount lost by exploited seniors in our country at $5 billion per year. The Anthony Marshall conviction was a shining example that to use to help combat the problem.
Now that Marshall received his get-out-of-jail-free card after only 60 days, one has to wonder how useful this example will be.
By Danielle and Andrew Mayoras, co-authors of Trial & Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights! For the latest celebrity and high-profile cases, with tips to protect yourself, your loved ones, and your clients, click here to subscribe to The Trial & Heirs Update. You can “like” them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.