Reaction to verdict muted on MDI where Marshall owns summer estate

Posted Oct. 08, 2009, at 9:13 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 11:55 a.m.

MOUNT DESERT, Maine — In the village of Northeast Harbor, where Anthony Marshall owns a summer home that formerly belonged to his famous mother, reaction was muted late Thursday afternoon to his criminal conviction on charges of grand larceny.

Several shopkeepers on the village’s Main Street said they either did not have an opinion one way or the other about Marshall’s guilty verdict, or that they did not want their opinions published by a newspaper.

One person who did share her opinion was Alicia Johnson, Brooke Astor’s former head housekeeper. She placed the blame for what happened on Marshall’s wife, former resident Charlene Marshall, more than she did on Astor’s son.

“It’s sad that he was found guilty for doing something for the love of his life,” Johnson said of Anthony Marshall. “He did it for her. That’s pretty obvious.”

The Marshalls met each other in Northeast Harbor, where Charlene Marshall used to be married to an Episcopal minister. She divorced the minister in 1990, two years before she married Anthony Marshall. Residents have said that Astor was mortified when her son began dating the ex-wife of the minister at her church.

Johnson said that given Anthony Marshall’s age — he’s 85 — she doesn’t think he should go to jail. A more fitting sentence would involve house arrest and an order to repay the money he was convicted of stealing, she said.

“I think that is the fair thing to do,” said Johnson, who was laid off by the Marshalls in 2004, a year after they gained control of Astor’s estate. “They’ll probably file an appeal anyway.”

Astor was 105 when she died in 2007. She had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2000.

Robert Pyle, director of the Northeast Harbor Library, said Astor would be “demoralized” to know that her son had been tried and found guilty of stealing her money. Pyle said he became acquainted with both Astor and Marshall through their interactions with the library.

“Mrs. Astor would be very, very sad,” Pyle said late Thursday afternoon in his office. “It goes beyond embarrassment.”

Pyle added that, given the length of the trial and the amount of information the jury had to consider, he thinks they likely arrived at the correct decision.

“I’m deeply regretful that [verdict] happened to him, but I am not surprised,” Pyle said.

During her lifetime and in her will, Astor donated money to the library and other organizations on Mount Desert Island, including College of the Atlantic, Asticou Azalea Garden, and Saint Mary’s and Saint Jude’s Parish.

Astor’s former summer home, a waterfront property known as Cove End, has played a prominent role in the drama over whether Marshall stole millions of dollars from his mother.

In a pretrial, court-ordered 2006 settlement with the bank that was given control over Astor’s estate, ownership of the house was ceded back to Marshall, who three years earlier had signed the house over to Charlene Marshall. After he had assumed control of his mother’s financial affairs, Anthony Marshall had signed the house over to himself before giving the property to his wife. The house, which sits on Gilpatrick Cove and has a view of the yacht club, has an assessed value of $3.2 million.

During the five-month trial, jurors looked closely at the expenses of Cove End. One of the accusations against Marshall was that he used Astor’s money while she was still alive to help maintain the house after she gave it to him.

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