Morning News: Prosecutorial Overkill Threatens to Spoil Fun

Ozier Muhammad/The New York Times

While the nincompoops in charge at Citigroup contemplate another, more extensive round of layoffs, putting thousands of people out of a job while remaining cushily compensated themselves, the Manhattan district attorney’s office has announced the indictment of Anthony Marshall, Brooke Astor’s son. You have to have been living under a rock not to hear tell of Mr Marshall’s alleged misappropriations; in the course of administering his failing mother’s estate, Mr Marshall is said to have channeled “millions” of dollars into pockets closer to his own than was fit and proper. Together with a rapscallion-sounding amigo, formerly disbarred attorney Francis X Morrissey — with a name like that, one is either a cardinal or a criminal — the late doyenne’s octogenarian son appears to have chased thrills only guessed at by Max Bialystock (of The Producers), mounting at least two very successful shows on Broadway.

Priorities in order — check.

Surely this matter ought never have gone beyond the civil-trial stage. Mr Marshall has undoubtedly made the mistake of allowing his self-interest to do his accounting for him. It also seems that he was a bit churlish about taking care of a mother whom, unlike her circle of friends, he neither idolized nor sentimentalized. And it is almost irresistible, finally, to attribute the collapse of such respectability as he possessed to a scheming younger wife: Charlene Marshall’s ample figure appears to be an apt symbol of her willingness to consume her husband’s largesse (source: his mother’s property). This is Harry and Leona all over again, no? She‘s the one who ought to be indicted. Let the doddering old man enjoy his last years in peace!

I cannot bring myself to agree that this family tragedy without actual victims warrants the attentions of the Elder Abuse unit of the district attorney’s office. Slaps on the wrist, disgorgements all round, and a blitz of humiliation for the vicar’s ex-wife — the public circus deserves no less. But criminal sanctions betray a lack of sense, specifically a sense of humor. From the very beginning, I have found the Marshall Affair to be rich in dark humor, the tale of a geriatric Pinocchio. I’ll have to stop laughing, though, if Mr Marshall is clapped behind bars.