Robert Durst briefly appeared in a New Orleans courtroom Tuesday, but a judge continued the question of his extradition to Los Angeles, where he faces a murder charge, to Thursday.
Durst, 71, the focus of the HBO documentary “The Jinx,” was arrested March 14 in New Orleans after being stopped by FBI agents at his French Quarter hotel on a California murder warrant.
Investigators found a .38 caliber revolver and marijuana in his room, and Durst now also faces gun charges in Louisiana.
He has waived extradition to California, where he is wanted in connection with the murder of friend and author Susan Berman, who was shot in the head at her Benedict Canyon home 15 years ago.
But Orleans Parish Assistant Dist. Atty. Mark Burton has pursued the state charges.
Durst was brought to court for a brief hearing Tuesday, but Orleans Criminal District Court Magistrate Harry Cantrell Jr. continued the issue to Thursday, according to his lead attorney and court staff.
Two FBI agents who stopped Durst and a Louisiana state trooper who arrested him were subpoenaed to testify Thursday, but court paperwork filed by federal prosecutors has moved those subpoenas to federal court, along with “enforcement and any contempt proceedings” because the “federal officers” involved were called as witnesses to testify in an official capacity, according to the Monday filing.
But Durst's Houston-based attorney Dick DeGuerin noted that Thursday’s hearing “could make that moot.”
“The judge has told us it will still go forward,” he said of the upcoming hearing, where he plans to again push for state charges to be dismissed, clearing the way for extradition. “We’ve even offered to pay the cost of transportation, of extra deputies,” DeGuerin said, adding: “At least they won’t have an excuse that it costs too much.”
If convicted in New Orleans as a first-time offender, Durst could face sentences of up to 10 and 20 years on each of the charges -- possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and possession of a firearm with a controlled substance.
Officials have 30 days to enforce Dursts' extradition, which would expire next week, according to his legal team’s staff.
Durst’s New Orleans-based attorney, Billy Gibbens, had planned Tuesday to push for his immediate extradition, staff said. Lead attorney Dick DeGuerin is still in Houston, where he’s based.
“It’s all part of us making an effort to get to California,” DeGuerin told The Times, noting, “I would think the Los Angeles prosecutors would be clamoring to get him out there.”
“I think what will develop is that the agents didn’t have probable cause to make an arrest, they didn’t have probable cause to make a search; they made a search before they had a search warrant.
"The evidence is not admissible,” he said, adding: “That’s what we hope to establish if we can ever get a witness to take the stand.”
DeGuerin last week filed a motion asking the judge to find there was no probable cause to arrest Durst in New Orleans on the state charges so that he can be extradited to California.
Durst’s attorneys have subpoenaed the FBI agents who stopped him and the Louisiana state trooper who charged him to appear at the hearing and testify about the details of his arrest in an effort to have it and the underlying search warrants dismissed.
Federal prosecutors initially barred the agents from testifying at a hearing last week, then this week filed a motion to remove the subpoenas.
Durst, who is worth an estimated $100 million, is being held without bond at a medical unit of a state prison about 70 miles west of New Orleans -- the Elayn Hunt Correctional Center in St. Gabriel, La.
He has been removed from suicide watch, his attorney said, and is pleased with conditions at the facility. Since he is Jewish, his attorneys even arranged for him to see a rabbi there for Passover.