Robert Durst shrugs off ‘boring’ trespassing trial

Robert Durst, the outcast son of the Durst real estate empire who was acquitted of murder in 2003, yawned repeatedly and appeared generally disinterested as his attorney defended him from trespassing charges on Wednesday.

“This is the most boring trial I have ever been to,” said Durst, in a gray pinstripe suit, as he left a courtroom in Lower Manhattan.

Durst, the son of real estate mogul Seymour Durst, gained notoriety after the disappearance of his wife, Kathleen McCormack, in 1982. Durst was later charged with dismembering an elderly neighbor in Galveston, Tex., where Durst was living as a mute woman. After skipping bail, Durst was arrested in Pennsylvania, and was eventually acquitted of murder in the dismembering after he said he acted in self-defense, but pleaded guilty to skipping bail and evidence tampering.

On Wednesday, Durst’s attorneys defended him again, this time against charges he trespassed on a property owned by his family, which has a restraining order out against him and disseminates pictures of him to new security hires.

Members of the Durst family—who paid Robert $65 million in 2006 for his stake in the family business—were notably absent from the mostly empty courtroom, and the defendant was joined instead by three younger male associates who said they met Durst in prison.

The prosecution, led by assistant district attorney Lawrence Newman, called three witnesses, who all worked in the security department of the Durst Organization.

Dominick Manzi, a 20-year veteran of the New York Police Department who serves as the Durst Organization’s assistant director of security, testified that he had multiple encounters with Robert Durst in 2012 and 2013.

The first took place on April 17, 2012, when another Durst employee saw him apparently stretching across the street from 413 West 43rd Street, the Midtown residence of Alexander Durst, his estranged nephew.

Manzi testified that Robert looked “frail and slightly disheveled,” and that he called 911 after being told to leave the block by security personnel.

But Durst reappeared near company holdings the following day, this time with HBO filmmaker Andrew Jarecki and a cameraman, in front of a Durst office building at 1133 Sixth Avenue. Once again, Manzi ordered Durst and Jarecki off company property.

(Durst, who was the subject of the fictional film All Good Things in 2010, will now be the subject of a multipart HBO documentary called The Jinx, which is set to air in February of 2015.)

On Wednesday, Durst was facing charges for a subsequent incident, on June 2, 2013, when a maintenance man allegedly spotted Robert Durst on the block of West 43rd Street, which houses many members of the family, including his brother, Douglas.

In a video presented in court, Durst is seen walking up the stairs of 413 West 43rd Street, reaching the top before turning around. Other surveillance videos show Durst walking slowly past family residences, peering up at the roof from the middle of the street.

Case law indicates that the stoop of a building is public property, but the prosecution argued that, given the myriad restraining orders handed down by judges to protect the rest of the Durst family, Robert Durst knew he was not to approach the buildings.

“Douglas set me up,” Durst said after Manhattan criminal court judge Ann Scherzer refused a motion to dismiss the charges. “We got messages about things that were going on [at the property].”

Summation arguments and a verdict are expected on Thursday morning.

Durst faces only a probation sentence in the case, but a trespassing conviction could make it difficult for him to return to Houston, where he spends most of his time, even as he maintains a growing portfolio of real estate investments in Harlem and Brooklyn.

Durst, 70, walked slowly as he left the courtroom, and griped about the extensive legal fees.

“I want to go someplace fancy for lunch,” he said.

CORRECTION: This story initially stated Durst was convicted of evidence tampering in Galveston, Tex. He pleaded guilty to that charge and skipping bail.



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