Robert A. Durst, the estranged son of a prominent Manhattan real estate family, pleaded not guilty on Thursday to two weapons charges.
Mr. Durst entered his plea at an arraignment in a New Orleans court, the first formal airing of state charges that have snarled his efforts to go to Los Angeles to answer murder charges there. He is accused in New Orleans of possessing a handgun after a felony conviction and possessing both a firearm and an illegal substance, specifically marijuana.
Mr. Durst, who turns 72 next week, required the help of a lawyer to get out of his seat. Appearing confused, Mr. Durst remained silent when Judge Franz Zibilich first asked him how he pleaded. His lawyer, Dick DeGuerin, whispered into Mr. Durst’s ear.
“I am not guilty, Your Honor,” Mr. Durst said.
Judge Zibilich asked if Mr. Durst was pleading not guilty to both charges. After Mr. DeGuerin whispered into his ear again, Mr. Durst said yes.
An affidavit filed in federal court in New Orleans also accuses Mr. Durst of violating a federal gun law.
Mr. Durst is being held in a psychiatric jail outside the city.
The arraignment brought a measure of clarity to a weekslong period of ambiguity over when he might be extradited to Los Angeles. The answer now seems to be, no time soon.
Mr. DeGuerin appeared to allude to that uncertainty when he said after the hearing, “You’ve got to go wherever they hit the ball.”
Driven by the belief that the murder charges in Los Angeles are built on a shaky foundation, Mr. Durst’s lawyers have sought to speed his extradition, cutting into the time prosecutors in California have to build their case. Those prosecutors and investigators will be in New York next week to interview additional witnesses as part of the expanding investigation into what they think was Mr. Durst’s execution-style shooting death of a close confidante, Susan Berman, in Los Angeles in 2000.
Mr. Durst’s lawyers have contended that the Louisiana case is part of a collaborative effort by the authorities to give investigators in Los Angeles more time.
Mr. Durst was arrested on March 14 after the authorities found a .38-caliber revolver, as well as five ounces of marijuana, in his New Orleans hotel room. The authorities in Los Angeles had already obtained a murder warrant, fearful that Mr. Durst was about to flee the country.
Interest in Ms. Berman’s death increased during a six-part HBO documentary, “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst.” During the series finale, Mr. Durst seemed to confess to several murders.
By Katy Reckdahl & Benjamin Mueller (New York Times)