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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Gallery Director Is Convicted in De Niro-Art Scheme Case

Leigh Morse, right, leaving court with Andrew M. Lankler, her lawyer, on March 18. Leigh Morse, right, leaving court with Andrew M. Lankler, her lawyer, on March 18. David Karp/Associated Press

Leigh Morse, a former Upper East Side art gallery director, was convicted on Wednesday on charges of cheating the estates of four artists out of about $5 million.

But Ms. Morse, 55, who had served as director of the Salander-O’Reilly Galleries on East 71st Street, was acquitted on a second charge that had cast an extra spotlight on the case because it involved the estate of a fifth artist: Robert De Niro Sr., a figurative and abstract painter and a certain actor’s father. In that charge, Ms. Morse had been accused of funneling $77,0000 from the sale of one of Mr. De Niro’s works into her own bank account.

After a monthlong trial, a jury in New York State Supreme Court found Ms. Morse guilty of one count of first-degree scheming to defraud, a felony that could carry a sentence of up to one and a third years to four years in prison. She is to be sentenced June 3, said the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., whose office handled the case.

After the verdict was announced, one juror, Stanley Cohen, told reporters he believed Ms. Morse was guilty of the charge involving the De Niro artwork, but had caved under pressure from other jurors who were pushing for an acquittal.

“The pressure got to be unbearable,” he said. “I apologize to Mr. De Niro. I’ll see him in the movies.”

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