Robert Durst portrayed himself yesterday as a persecuted, rich New Yorker – hounded by the news media for more than two decades and more recently by “the politically ambitious” district attorney of Westchester County. The defense opened its murder case with Durst taking the stand, as he retold his life in chronological order. But court ended before he got to the Sept. 28, 2001, slaying of Morris Black. Durst complained about news coverage of the 1982 disappearance of his first wife, and about stories in the Daily News and The New York Times in November 2000 that revealed a renewed probe in that still-unsolved case. Testifying in front of a jammed courtroom, Durst said the November 2000 stories caused him to vomit, and persuaded him to move from New York to Galveston, where he could dress as a woman and “not be Robert Durst.

” “I decided I would disguise myself and buy a wig,” he said. As if to show how rough and unfair the New York media can be, defense attorney Dick DeGuerin held up a blowup of the front page of the Sept. 23 Daily News, which read, “How Durst Did It,” an account of District Attorney Kurt Sistrunk’s opening statement. Assistant District Attorney Joel Bennett objected strongly to DeGuerin’s move, and Judge Susan Criss summoned the parties to a sidebar. When the trial resumed, the front page was gone. Durst, 60, on trial for the murder of his 71-year-old neighbor, told jurors his life story from his birth on April 12, 1943, until April 2001. When the trial resumes this morning, he will no doubt advance his story to the day he says Black was accidentally killed in self-defense. Durst also will have to explain why he dismembered the corpse, dumped the body parts into Galveston Bay and, once arrested, jumped bail. He is expected to blame the coverup on his fear of Westchester District Attorney Jeanine Pirro and the New York media. Durst told the jury he suffered from bulimia as a child and had lived his adult life abusing marijuana and drinking heavily. He also professed an utter disdain for the stress-filled business world of his family’s real estate empire. He acknowledged that he was present when, at age 7, his mother “fell or jumped” from the roof of the family home in Scarsdale. Years of psychiatric care ensued, he said. He claimed he was shocked when he learned that his close friend, crime writer Susan Berman, had been slain in Los Angeles around Christmas Eve 2000. Durst, who is a suspect in that slaying, offered an alibi yesterday: He spent the Christmas holidays in the Hamptons with his second wife, Debrah Charatan. At one point, DeGuerin read a love letter his client had penned to Charatan. “How could this be happening. I love you, Bye,” the note ended. Durst said he planned to never return to New York, but as he continued with his narrative, it was clear he had returned several times. On one of those trips, in December 2000, he quietly married Charatan. Durst also testified that he: . Feared a desperate Pirro would indict him in late 2000 to save her political career, given that her husband had been sent to prison for income tax evasion. In a slap at Pirro, he noted he still has not been charged in his first wife’s disappearance. . Set his wig on fire in a bar, then jumped off the stool to retrieve it as patrons watched. . Walked into the men’s room at the local library, then realized his mistake when he saw a man at a urinal staring at him. . Couldn’t wear the wig and jog. “It was too hot and sweaty. It would get in my eyes and my mouth. I don’t know how women do it.

” . Put his first wife on the train to Manhattan the evening of Jan. 31, 1982, “and that was the last time I saw her.

” . Cooperated in the investigation of Kathie Durst’s disappearance. Investigators are convinced Kathie Durst never made it to the city and was killed in Westchester County. They also note it took him five days to report her missing, and his offer of a reward was met with skepticism.

(NY Daily News)


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