Robert Durst, the New York real estate heir with headline-grabbing Texas connections, has opted to go to trial rather than accept 15 days in jail.
Durst was arrested Aug. 16 outside his Harlem home on a charge of trespassing at a relative’s midtown Manhattan brownstone in June, according to the Associated Press.
Earlier this week, prosecutors offered him a plea bargain of 15 days in jail in return for pleading guilty to the trespassing violation, but he turned it down.
His trial on the trespassing violation is scheduled to begin March 3, according to online New York court records.
According to the complaint filed at Durst’s arraignment, a security guard and custodian of three buildings in the 400 block of West 43rd Street in New York saw Durst on security camera footage June 2 at each building.
The footage showed Durst walking up the exterior stairs at one of the buildings, the complaint states.
The security guard said that in April, he had seen Durst “crouched behind a tree” at the same West 43rd Street residence. The guard told Durst at the time that he was not to have contact with the residents and was not allowed on their property.
Durst’s attorney, Steven Rabinowitz in New York, said Durst is being prosecuted because of his notoriety, rather than doing anything that amounts to trespass.
“The trespass charge he’s facing is based on nothing more than Bob briefly venturing partway up the stairs of a brownstone owned by his brother,” Rabinowitz said Thursday by email. “There’s no allegation that he committed any wrongful act during the 24 seconds he was on those stairs, nor even (that) he had any bad intentions. He’s being prosecuted merely because he had the temerity to wander from the sidewalk to the stairs.”
Rabinowitz said prosecutors have conceded that brownstones are open to the public under New York law.
“They only become off-limits when the property owner issues a clear warning to stay away,” the lawyer’s email stated.
More than a year before Durst’s Aug. 16 arrest, he was approached by one of his brother’s security guards while he was “minding his own business on a public sidewalk near the brownstone,” Rabinowitz said.
“The prosecution will claim that the guard told Bob to stay away from his brother Douglas, along with Douglas’ immediate family members and their property.”
Durst disputes the claim, his attorney said.
Moreover, the prosecution has no evidence and has not alleged that anyone told Durst the brownstone stairs were off-limits, Rabinowitz said.
“So unless Bob is going to be held to a different legal standard than everyone else in New York, he should be acquitted,” his lawyer’s email stated.
In a bizarre 2001 Galveston case, Durst was acquitted of murder despite admitting that he dismembered the body of his elderly neighbor Morris Black after shooting him during a struggle over a handgun.
He was arrested in December 2005 on a parole violation after witnesses reported seeing him in Galveston, outside the apartment building where Black’s slaying occurred. Under terms of his mandatory supervision, Durst was not allowed to be in Galveston.
He also made a visit to the Galleria and ran into Judge Susan Criss, who had presided at his 2003 trial.
By Carol Christian (Houston Chronicle)