By Francesca Trianni
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Anthony Marshall, 89, son of the late philanthropist Brooke Astor, turned himself in at a Manhattan courthouse on Friday to begin a one- to three-year prison sentence for stealing millions of dollars from his mother, who suffered from Alzheimer's disease.
Marshall, a decorated veteran who was a Broadway producer and U.S. diplomat, arrived in a wheelchair pushed by his wife Charlene. A court officer took her place and wheeled Marshall before Judge Kirke Bartley in state Supreme Court. He looked ahead without emotion as his wife sobbed from a seat behind him.
The judge read aloud from a letter written by Marshall's son Alexander, who had testified against him in the 2009 trial that led to Marshall's conviction on grand larceny and other charges. It included a plea to spare his father from prison. "Please consider all the good my father has done for our country," Alexander wrote.
Marshall had cited poor health in his bids to stay out of prison.
Bartley urged Marshall to reconnect with his son, from whom he has been estranged for years. "I strongly encourage you to receive your son back into your life before it is too late," Bartley said. "Life is far too short. I'm sure I don't have to tell you that."
As he was being taken away, the court officer angled the wheelchair toward the courtroom and Marshall burst into tears when he looked at his wife.
On Thursday, in a final attempt to keep Marshall out of prison, his lawyers argued that one of the jurors had been coerced into casting a guilty vote. Judge Bartley denied Marshall's motion for a new trial and ordered him to return to court on Friday to begin his sentence.
Pending a physical exam by prison doctors, Marshall could be sent to a correction facility or to a prison nursing home, said Department of Corrections spokesman Tom Mailey.
Marshall and his co-defendant, former estates lawyer Francis Morrissey, 72, were convicted in 2009 of looting the estate of Brooke Astor, whose fortune was estimated to be worth around $200 million. She died in 2007 at the age of 105.
Morrissey began serving his sentence on Thursday.
"The needs and rights of older Americans are too often forgotten or ignored, and their voices silenced," Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance said in a statement on Friday.
"This week, two defendants convicted of multiple felonies against an elderly victim have surrendered and will finally begin serving their sentences, three-and-a-half-years after they were first imposed."
Under Astor's will, her only child, Marshall, stood to inherit tens of millions of dollars. After he was convicted of grand larceny, fraud and other charges, he received a settlement of $14.4 million. The rest of the money went to charity.
(Reporting by Francesca Trianni; Editing by Daniel Trotta, Toni Reinhold)