Robert Durst’s scheduled arraignment on an out-of-state arrest warrant was postponed Monday (April 13) and transferred to the same court that will host his next hearing on state gun charges May 7.
Though said to be en route from Elayn Hunt Correctional Center in St. Gabriel, Durst did not arrive in time for what basically was a procedural matter before ad hoc Judge Calvin Johnson. Attorney Ike Spears, a local member of Durst’s all-star defense team, waived Durst’s presence for the hearing and agreed to fold the arraignment into the May 7 hearing already scheduled before Criminal District Court Judge Franz Zibilich.
The warrant arraignment essentially requires Durst to identify himself for the court record and acknowledge there is a warrant for his arrest on a murder charge pending in California, preventing his release once his state and federal gun charges are resolved in Louisiana.
Durst was arraigned last Thursday on two Louisiana gun charges, to which he pleaded not guilty. And last Friday, Durst was indicted by New Orleans’ federal grand jury on a U.S. gun law charge of illegal possession of a firearm by a felon. He is to be arraigned and enter a plea on that charge on Thursday.
Those cases stem from Durst’s March 14 arrest at the Canal Street J.W. Marriott, where federal agents said they found the New York real estate heir with a loaded .38-caliber revolver and 5 ounces of marijuana in his hotel room, along with other suspicious items such as a latex mask, fake identification documents, a map folded to show the route from New Orleans to Cuba, and $161,000 in cash.
Durst was detained by FBI agents and a state trooper assigned to a federal task force at the behest of Los Angeles homicide detectives. According to court testimony, those investigators believed Durst was preparing to flee the country to evade arrest in connection with the nearly 15-year-old shooting death of writer Susan Berman.
Durst’s lead attorney, Houston-based Dick DeGuerin, has said Durst denies any role in Berman’s death and is eager to be extradited to California to face the murder charge, which could bring the death penalty.
Durst faces potential sentences of 5-20 years on the state gun charges, and a mandatory 10-year prison term and/or $250,000 fine if convicted in federal court. Durst turned 72 on Sunday, spending his birthday in the mental health unit at Hunt, where he was transferred March 17.
Durst’s links to three suspected murders recently were detailed in an HBO documentary series “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst.” He was acquitted of a Texas murder in 2003 but has previous federal convictions for being a fugitive from justice and transporting a weapon across state lines while under felony indictment.
By Ken Daley, (NOLA.com)