Real estate heir and acquitted murder defendant Robert Durst pleaded guilty Wednesday to bond jumping and evidence tampering related to the shooting death of his 71-year-old neighbor, whose body he chopped up and dumped in Galveston Bay.
Durst, 61, pleaded guilty to two counts of bond-jumping and one count of evidence-tampering at the Galveston County, Texas, court house, his attorney Dick DeGuerin said.
As part of the plea deal, Durst was sentenced to five years — he would have faced up to 10 years in prison — and he will receive credit for time already served.
In effect, the cross-dressing millionaire will serve about another three years, DeGuerin told Courttv.com.
“Durst pleaded guilty to dispose of the case,” DeGuerin said. “He said he was going to face responsibility for the stuff he’s done.”
Had Durst not pleaded guilty, he would have gone to trial October 12.
The plea deal was made hours after the judge who was scheduled to preside over Durst’s trial was taken off the case earlier today, amid reports that she was biased against Durst.
“The first clue of the judge’s partiality was when she set the bail at $3 billion for a third-degree felony,” DeGuerin said, referring to Durst’s bail-jumping and evidence-tampering charges.
The bond was the highest in Texas history, and an appeals court lowered the bond to $450,000 in June.
District Judge Susan Criss also “chewed out the jurors” when they acquitted Durst of first-degree murder in November 2003, DeGuerin said.
When Judge Jackson Smith agreed to replace Criss Wednesday, it was an opportune moment for Durst to renew his effort for a plea deal.
Criss tried to block Durst’s plea deal, saying it was “too light,” according to DeGuerin.
“I wouldn’t change a thing I did,” Criss said.
Criss would not comment on why she was removed from the case, but denied having a vendetta against Durst or the jurors.
“I don’t agree with what the defense attorneys had in their motion,” Criss told Courttv.com. “I keep telling the news I will not criticize the jurors.”
Durst had an evidence-tampering charge because he told jurors that he tossed the remains of his dead neighbor, Morris Black, in Galveston Bay. In that earlier trial, Durst said he only shot the 71-year-old in self-defense and was acquitted.
The bond-jumping charge stemmed from October 2001, when Durst fled Galveston after the murder charge. Police apprehended Durst a couple weeks later in a Pennsylvania restaurant, after he stole a Band-Aid and a chicken sandwich.
District attorney Kurt Sistrunk was not immediately available for comment.