Durst pleads not guilty to gun charges, California extradition delayed
Robert Durst pleaded not guilty Thursday to two state gun charges in Louisiana in a case that would delay his extradition to California to face murder charges.
A day after a grand jury indicted the real estate magnate on gun charges, Durst appeared in court Thursday, declaring “I am not guilty, your honor.”
“On both counts?” the judge asked.
“Yes,” Durst responded.
After the hearing, Durst’s Houston-based attorney Dick DeGuerin reiterated his interest in having his client quickly extradicted to California, where he is wanted in connection with a 15-year-old murder case.
“I feel like we’re being tag-teamed,” DeGuerin said, eluding to the Louisiana weapons charges. “And I feel like we need to be in California where the main case is so we can try the case.”
Federal prosecutors have also filed a complaint alleging that the star of HBO’s docuseries “The Jinx” violated federal gun laws, and are trying to get him transferred from a jail medical facility to the custody of federal marshals until that charge is resolved.
Durst, 71, was arrested March 14 when FBI agents stopped him on a California murder warrant and found a .38 revolver and marijuana in his hotel room. He is wanted in California in connection with the slaying of friend and author Susan Berman, found shot in the head at her Benedict Canyon home in 2000.
His attorneys have waived extradition and attempted to have the state charges and underlying search warrants dismissed.
They had subpoenaed the FBI agents to testify about the arrest and searches last week, but federal prosecutors ordered them not to appear and persuaded the magistrate to continue the hearing.
Now they may never take the stand.
But the story of one of the agents is detailed in the federal complaint against Durst.
Special Agent William C. Williams said he and the other agent, identified only as C. Bender, were sent to find Durst at the J.W. Marriott Hotel by Los Angeles police investigators who had been tracking the millionaire and believed he was staying there.
“Information derived in California” showed Durst heading eastbound from his home in Houston on Interstate 10 on March 10, days before the finale of “The Jinx.”
“I was advised that Durst had allegedly stated that his last interview would be conducted in Cuba or Havana,” Williams said in the filing.
When they arrived at the hotel lobby about 4:30 p.m., Williams spotted a man fitting Durst’s description wearing a baseball cap, jacket and backpack.
“Mr. Durst,” Williams said, approaching and identifying himself as an FBI agent.
Durst looked up, but didn’t respond, the agent said, so he tried again. Durst didn’t respond. He told the agent he didn’t have identification on him (which the agent said turned out to be a lie) and that he had checked in under the name Everette Ward.
The agent told Durst he had a warrant for his arrest from California, and had him wait in the lobby while he verified it. He then called the Los Angeles FBI office where an agent told him the warrant would be entered into a national database “imminently.”
Williams then told Durst the warrant had been verified, that it was time to gather his belongings and go to jail.
The two agents headed up to Durst’s room on the 23rd floor to gather and inventory his belongings about 5:20 p.m., according to the filing.
They sat Durst in a chair, searched him and handcuffed his left arm to a table. They said they found a fake Texas identification card in Durst’s backpack, marijuana in another backpack and cash.
Durst pointed them to a jacket in the closet and “spontaneously volunteered” that he had a .38 revolver in the pocket, the filing said.
Shortly after 6:30 p.m., the FBI agent spoke with Los Angeles police detectives who were in Houston investigating Durst and said they were seeking a search warrant in New Orleans. Williams said they told him to stop his inventory and secure Durst’s hotel room, which he said he did, according to the filing.
Los Angeles Det. Mike Whelan later received a search warrant for the room, and federal prosecutors assert in the complaint that the agents’ observations in the room were not used to develop probable cause for the search warrant.
Durst is scheduled to make his first appearance in federal court April 16.
If convicted as a first-time offender, Durst could be sentenced to as long as 20 years for each charge.
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