NEW ORLEANS — Real estate heir Robert Durst is willing to pay extradition costs to California, where he is accused of killing a friend to keep her from telling prosecutors about his first wife’s disappearance, his attorney said Tuesday.
“We’re up for doing anything that would get Mr. Durst to California to face charges there,” Billy Gibbens told Magistrate Harry Cantrell.
Gibbens said a deadline to extradite Durst, 71, is coming next week. However, Assistant District Attorney Diane Puigh said it can be delayed for another two months. Extradition is beside the point while Louisiana weapons charges are pending, she said.
Cantrell scheduled another hearing for Thursday.
That’s also when he has a hearing about whether Durst was legally arrested March 14, and was to consider whether two FBI agents and a state trooper are in contempt of court for missing a hearing last week.
Defense attorneys say the FBI illegally searched Durst’s room at the J.W. Marriott, where he was arrested in March, rummaging through it without a warrant and photographing everything before he was arrested on the California warrant. Because of that, they say, Cantrell should throw out two state weapons charges: possession of a firearm by a felon, and illegal possession of a firearm and a controlled dangerous substance.
Justice Department lawyers have asked a federal court to take over the contempt question, saying it’s a federal matter because Special Agents Crystal Bender and William C. Williams, and Trooper Saunders Craine — a member of the FBI New Orleans Violent Crimes Task Force — were acting in their official capacity to arrest Durst.
Gibbens declined to comment on that motion after the hearing.
Durst’s lawyers say the arrest in New Orleans was timed to coincide with the final episode of “The Jinx,” an HBO documentary about Durst. It described the disappearance of his wife Kathleen in 1982 from New York State; the Los Angeles shooting of Susan Berman, 55, in December 2000; and the death and dismemberment of a Texas neighbor in 2001. Durst said he killed Morris Black in self-defense, and jurors acquitted him.
Durst was in court Tuesday, hands shackled in padded cuffs. A deputy had to help him out of his armchair.
By Janet Mcconnaughey (Associated Press)