Hours after millionaire murder suspect Robert Durst on Thursday (April 9) entered his not guilty plea to drug and gun charges in Orleans Parish Criminal District Court, his lawyers drove across downtown for a closed-door meeting before a federal judge.
Durst’s legal team was largely silent as they filed out of the federal courthouse after spending about an hour in a status conference in the chambers of U.S. District Judge Susie Morgan.
Durst’s Houston-based attorney, Richard DeGuerin, paused before a throng of reporters, saying they had “set some dates.”
Status conferences typically deal with scheduling matters, in this case, the setting of hearings on Durst’s request to subpoena FBI agents who searched his New Orleans hotel room last month.
No hearings dates were listed in that case as of late Thursday. Durst and his expansive legal team are scheduled to return to federal court next week, when Durst is arraigned on federal gun possession charges.
The FBI agents did not show up in Orleans Parish court last week, and Durst’s lawyers have asked a judge to hold them in contempt of court — only to have the FBI agents have the proceedings moved to federal court this week.
It was not clear if the state and federal cases against him would continue their separate tracks. Durst also is awaiting extradition to California, where he is charged with first-degree murder in the 2000 death of his friend, Susan Berman.
Outside the federal courthouse Thursday, DeGuerin was asked if he would be able to force the FBI agents to appear in court. DeGuerin said “yes,” but did not elaborate.
DeGuerin had more fun fielding questions about the news his client apparently sent a letter from his Louisiana jail cell to a reporter for the Los Angeles Times.
DeGuerin had told the Times the letter, signed by “Bob” and with a return address at the Elayn Hunt Correctional Center where Durst has been lodged, appeared to be authentic. As he walked toward a waiting black SUV on Poydras Street, reporters repeatedly asked DeGuerin to confirm the letter addressed to L.A. Times Houston Bureau reporter Molly Hennessy-Fiske, was actually written by Durst.
Smiling, DeGuerin turned back toward the crush of reporters.
“Is Molly here?” he asked. “You could ask her.”
Durst was arrested and charged on state counts of illegally possessing a firearm, charges to which he pleaded not guilty Thursday. Those charges appear likely to be superseded by gun charges filed this week.
FBI agents tracked Durst in New Orleans last month at the request of authorities in California who are investigating Durst’s role in the Berman’s death. Durst had apparently left his home in Texas, seeking a low profile as the final episode of a six-part documentary on his connections to Berman’s death and other killings.
Durst in 2003 was acquitted of murder charges in the death of his neighbor, Morris Black, but was convicted of jumping bail before his trial and of tampering with evidence by dismembering Black’s body, which was found in trash bags that were found washed ashore in Galveston Bay. Durst maintained the killing was self defense.
As a convicted felon, prosecutors said he is not allowed to possess a firearm, and the FBI agents who searched his New Orleans hotel room found a .38-caliber revolver holding four shells and a single spent casing.
Durst also was suspected of foul play in the 1982 disappearance of his first wife, Kathleen McCormack, who vanished from the couple’s New York estate.
By Andy Grimm (NOLA.com)