Butler: Astor Did Not Remember Signing Document

Three years after being diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, Brooke Astor did not remember a document she had signed for her lawyer and tried to check it out because she was suspicious, the socialite's former butler testified Tuesday.
Christopher Ely, a former footman to Queen Elizabeth II and Astor's butler for eight years, testified in Manhattan's state Supreme Court at the trial of Astor's son, Anthony Marshall, and his trusts and estates lawyer Francis Morrissey. Marshall is charged with grand larceny and Morrissey with forgery.
Prosecutors say Astor signed a letter that authorized her son take $5 million of her $198 million fortune, and she signed it on Aug. 13, 2003, at age 101, nearly three years after being diagnosed with dementia.
Ely said Tuesday that lawyer Henry Christensen, after eating lunch in the socialite's bedroom, said, “Mrs. Astor seemed well.”

“He seemed to want me to agree with him,” Ely testified before Justice A. Kirke Bartley sustained an objection and had the comment stricken.
In fact, Ely said, Astor “was tired and not feeling so good,” before Christensen arrived at her country home in Westchester County. He said she was recovering from hip surgery and was groggy with medication.
Ely said Astor later asked why the lawyer had come. He said he didn't know the reason for the visit but because she had asked for a pen, he thought she had signed something.

Ely called the lawyer at the request of Astor and testified the socialite “lost her train of thought” during the conversation with Christensen.
Ely contacted Christensen the following day and explained Astor was concerned about what she had signed and wanted a copy. The lawyer said he would send a copy of the documents.
“I never got it,” Ely said. “I never got anything from Mr. Christensen.
Christensen testified last week that Marshall had instructed him to send the letter to him and he would see that his mother received it.
Astor, diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2000, died in 2007 at age 105.
Assistant District Attorney Peirce Moser showed the jury several transfer letters and lists which tracked Marshall's movement of more than $3 million from his mother's money management accounts into his own in August 2003.
Prosecutors say the August 2003 signing incident with Christensen was one instance of Marshall's exploiting his mother's mental decline to loot her estate.
They also say it illustrates the ethical conflict Christensen had trying to serve two clients with sometimes opposing issues and goals.
The trial hinge's on whether Astor was mentally competent to understand changes made in 2003 and 2004 to her 2002 will that gave Marshall most of her estate, including parts that previously were to go to charity.
Prosecutors say she was unable to understand complex legal documents and transactions, but defense lawyers say she knew exactly what she was signing.
Earlier in the day, Miranda Kaiser, banker David Rockefeller's granddaughter, described an encounter in which Astor did not recognize her great-uncle Laurance Rockefeller, whom she had known for years, at a luncheon in January 2004.
Kaiser, a 37-year-old lawyer and Montana cattle rancher, said that when her uncle showed Astor a tie she had given him for Christmas, she turned to Kaiser's grandfather and asked, “David, who is that man?”
Kaiser said that when she first met Astor, she asked whether the socialite had children, and she answered she had one. Kaiser said she asked why she had not had more kids and Astor replied, “He (Marshall) was so unfortunate I decided not to have any more.”

The trial resumes Wednesday with the testimony of Astor's personal doctor.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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