Joshua Bullard says his friend is in trouble, and is not getting a fair shake in the media.
“It’s just that I know that he’s had his problems before, but as a friend of his today, I can tell you that my friend is in bad shape,” said Bullard, a political consultant who successfully championed the no-smoking ordinance for Metro Park and Ride.
But clearing his friend’s name is no easy task, especially when he’s someone as high profile as Robert Durst.
If you recall, Durst, now 71, was arrested in 2001 as a fugitive and admitted to shooting his elderly neighbor, Morris Black, during a struggle over a handgun and then cutting up the body and dumping it in Galveston Bay.
Against all odds, a jury in 2003 acquitted Durst of the murder charge, thanks in no small measure to a trio of top-notch lawyers – Chip Lewis, Mike Ramsey and Dick DeGuerin. The jury bought their argument that Durst acted in self defense.
In 2004, Durst pleaded guilty to two counts of bond jumping and one count of evidence tampering, relating to the body disposal. As part of a plea bargain, he received a five-year sentence and was given credit for time served, requiring him to serve about three years in prison.
He was paroled in 2005, after serving about a year behind bars.
It was not the first brush with the law for Durst, who amassed millions of dollars as a real estate developer in his father’s New York business.
Investigators questioned Durst about the 1982 disappearance of his wife, Kathleen McCormack, and about the execution-style murder of his long-time friend, Susan Berman, in 2000. He was not charged in either case.
Durst went undercover – way undercover – moving to Texas in 2000 where he began cross-dressing to escape questions about his wife’s whereabouts. He was a fugitive when arrested in 2001 on the Island.
Bullard, who met Durst several years ago at a Houston coffee shop and developed an unlikely friendship, sees a different person than the one portrayed in the media. He said his soft-spoken friend is a mere shell of the man he once was.
Today’s Durst, he said, is frail and medically challenged, stemming from surgery six years ago to reconstruct his gastrointestinal tract.
“It’s sad for me to see a coffee drinking friend portrayed as it was 10 years ago,” Bullard said in a recent interview at Starbucks on Bay Area Boulevard. “My friend is in bad shape, and I don’t think he has much longer to live.”
In fact, he said, Durst’s medical problems landed him in yet another brush with the law.
In July, the real estate heir was accused of urinating on a Houston CVS cash register and candy rack when he picked up a prescription.
“It was reported in the beginning that there was some type of argument, but after that when the smoke cleared, CVS said there was no argument,” said Bullard, who spearheaded Richard Nguyen’s election to Houston City Council. “I don’t know why he did it.”
USA Today reported on July 14:
“He wasn’t arguing with anybody and he didn’t seem agitated,” Houston police spokeswoman Jodi Silva told The New York Post, adding that she did not know what the prescription was for. “He just peed on the candy. Skittles, I think.”
Bullard offers another take on the incident. Durst, he said, was leaving the store when he suffered a bout of incontinence, stemming from the surgery. He was charged with criminal mischief in the case.
“He tried to leave the store but he couldn’t (get out in time),” Bullard said. “He sometimes has incontinence. They (surgeons) removed part of his intestines.”
He added, “I just want people to know that Durst is suffering medically, and he’s struggling to retain his life and liberty on a day-to-day basis,” he said.
Bullard said he’s championing Durst’s cause “because the laws need to be more senior-citizen friendly, and we don’t have that right now.”
Durst, he said, “is a great guy. If you ever met him, you’d say, ‘Wow, what a nice guy.’ He’s not somebody that would be aggressive with anyone unless they would be aggressive with him.”