Robert Durst has twice been arrested without probable cause over the past week in Louisiana, and he demands a speedy preliminary hearing on the state firearms charges that currently have him imprisoned in St. Gabriel, his attorney said in a motion filed Friday afternoon (March 20) in Orleans Parish Magistrate Court.
Judge Harry Cantrell is expected to rule on the motion, and perhaps set a hearing date, Monday morning. That hearing was previously set to determine whether Durst will receive a bond amount on state charges of gun possession by a felon and possessing a firearm in the presence of a controlled dangerous substance.
Dick DeGuerin, Durst’s Houston-based attorney who has filed a motion seeking temporary permission to practice law in Louisiana on the accused murderer’s behalf, said his client “was unlawfully arrested” last Saturday night at the J.W. Marriott on Canal Street.
DeGuerin’s motion says the capital murder arrest warrant executed by the FBI New Orleans Violent Crimes Task Force on behalf of Los Angeles police is a sham.
“Mr. Durst was unlawfully arrested in Orleans Parish based on an invalid California arrest warrant that was issued without probable cause,” the motion said. “The insufficient warrant was filed by the Los Angeles County Police Department (sic) to coincide with the final episode of the HBO docudrama ‘The Jinx.'”
DeGuerin also argues that the Louisiana gun charges that Durst, 71, was booked with Monday night also are invalid. They resulted from a search warrant of Durst’s hotel room following his initial arrest, which authorities said turned up a .38-caliber revolver and more than 5 ounces of marijuana.
“There is no probable cause to hold Mr. Durst on either of these offenses,” the motion said. “Mr. Durst brings this petition for a preliminary hearing so that the lack of probable cause may be demonstrated to the magistrate judge and so that Mr. Durst may be released from confinement.”
Durst’s arrest warrant on the gun charges was executed by the Louisiana State Police. Christopher Bowman, spokesman for the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s office, declined to comment on the filing by Durst’s attorney.
DeGuerin, who helped win Durst’s acquittal on a 2003 Texas murder charge connected to the death and dismemberment of Durst’s neighbor Morris Black, said in his motion that his client’s previous federal felony convictions do not qualify as predicate felony offenses enumerated under the Louisiana weapons statutes. Durst’s federal convictions were for running as a fugitive and for transporting a gun across state lines while under indictment for a felony.
“Under Louisiana law, none of Mr. Durst’s prior convictions qualify,” the motion says. “In addition, the state has failed to identify any circumstances indicating that Mr. Durst was in possession or immediate control of a firearm while also in the possession of a controlled substance.
“For these reasons, Mr. Durst requests a preliminary hearing to determine whether the state has sufficient evidence to justify further criminal proceedings on these charges.”
Durst, who had been declared a suicide risk by Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office officials, was transferred Tuesday night from Orleans Parish Prison to the mental health unit of the Elayne Hunt Correctional Center in St. Gabriel. He is being held without bond and, according to the motion, “has not been sufficiently informed of the circumstances surrounding the charges against him.”
In an interview with the CBS show “48 Hours” scheduled to air Saturday night, DeGuerin denied that Durst was suicidal.
Los Angeles police homicide detectives obtained their murder warrant for Durst in connection with the December 2000 shooting death of Durst’s confidante and former spokeswoman, writer Susan Berman. Authorities have placed Durst in California at the time of Berman’s murder, and believe she was killed to prevent her from speaking to New York authorities probing the still-unsolved 1982 disappearance of Durst’s first wife, Kathleen Durst.
Durst fell under greater suspicion in California after being charged in the 2001 death of his neighbor in Galveston, Texas. In that celebrated trial, Durst admitted to shooting and dismembering Black, but claimed he shot him in self-defense. Most of Black’s body floated to the surface of Galveston Bay in a series of black trash bags, but the man’s head never was found.
With renewed focus on Durst’s possible role in three potential murders generated by the six-part documentary “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst,” which concluded Sunday on HBO, authorities decided to move on Durst last weekend in New Orleans. Their concerns that Durst was preparing to flee, possibly to Cuba, were bolstered by what a search uncovered in his hotel room.
According to a search warrant request filed in Houston to search Durst’s residence there, agents seized a latex mask, more than $42,000 in cash and a fake ID in Durst’s New Orleans hotel room. Durst had registered at the hotel under the alias Everette Ward, authorities said.