Robert A. Durst, the New York real estate heir who was acquitted of murder nearly a year ago, was arrested yesterday on weapons charges in Galveston, Tex., one day before he was scheduled to be released from jail.
Federal marshals took Mr. Durst, 61, into custody at the Galveston County Jail and moved him to a detention center in Houston, where he awaits transfer to Pennsylvania to face two gun charges. “This is a vindictive prosecution,” said Dick DeGuerin, Mr. Durst’s lawyer. “He already did three years. You figure out whether this is retaliation.”
Mr. Durst, who has been in jail since November 2001, had expected to leave jail today a free man and move to Houston, at least for the time being. Mr. DeGuerin said he and Mr. Durst had tried to keep his release date quiet to avoid the reporters and satellite television trucks parked outside the jail.
But the marshals showed up in Galveston with an arrest warrant from federal court in Philadelphia. Unknown to his lawyers, Mr. Durst was indicted yesterday on two felony charges relating to handguns found in the trunk of his car when he was arrested near Bethlehem, Pa., in 2001.
The bizarre story of Mr. Durst, who moved to Galveston disguised as a mute woman, has received national attention. He was acquitted last November of the murder of a 71-year-old man who lived across the hall from him in a modest four-family house.
Mr. Durst said the two men had struggled over a pistol when it accidentally went off in the man’s face. Fearing that no one would believe it was an accident, Mr. Durst testified, he used a bow saw to cut up the body, before tossing it into Galveston Bay.
He fled Texas after being released on bail and led the authorities on a 45-day manhunt, before he was arrested in Pennsylvania on shoplifting charges. He had $38,000, two handguns and a bag of marijuana in the trunk of his car. Mr. Durst agreed to extradition after Pennsylvania waived local charges.
But after his acquittal Mr. Durst remained in jail on bail-jumping and tampering charges after bail was set at a record $3 billion. Last month, he pleaded guilty to those charges in exchange for a five-year sentence. Given credit for time served, he was scheduled for release today.
District Attorney Jeanine F. Pirro of Westchester County, who has reopened an investigation into the 1982 disappearance of his first wife, is also interested in talking to Mr. Durst.
By Charles V. Bagli (NY Times)