Miep and Mikhail Attended Robert Durst’s Arraignment on Federal Gun Charges

On Tuesday, April 14, Robert Durst was arraigned in New Orleans for federal gun charges. Upon entering, journalists were required to leave the cell phones and any other electronics with a security guard at the door. A kindly police officer explained this to us before the proceedings started. Broadcasting anything, a photograph or a video, from a federal court proceeding is a felony, so we may as well be relieved of the temptation. He reminded us, if somehow we managed to sneak our phones past security, to promptly hand them over. For our own good. “Otherwise you might have Bob Durst as a room mate,” Dick DeGuerin, Bob Durst’s attorney chimed in. Miep swooned at the very thought.

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DeGuerin seemed in high spirits. Before the proceedings, he approached me and Miep with some light banter about the rainy weather, and demonstrated that his jacket is reversible, specifically for occasions such as this one. Miep suspects that he’s following her Twitter account.

Before Durst’s arraignment, Judge Lance Africk arraigned Johnny Baham, who could face 3 years and a $250,000 fine for allegedly stealing two $75 gift cards from his mail route. If he’s guilty, that’s a really stupid crime!

When Durst’s time came, he had to be assisted getting up and going to the podium to make his plea. A member of Durst’s legal team told Judge Africk, “He cannot hear out of his left ear so I have to talk into his right ear.”

The judge asked Durst if he could hear him, and Durst replied that he could. Prosecutor Mike McMahon asked Durst if he understood the charges against him, and he replied that he did. But not before asking the prosecutor to identify himself:

“And you are?” A burst of verbal shuffling ensued.

The judge asked, “Do you need me to read your indictment to you?”

Robert Durst replied, “That’s not necessary.” When asked for his plea, he said, “Not guilty,” in a vaguely astonished way, as if the answer were obvious and he couldn’t believe he was being asked the question. This almost aroused a round of laughter in the room.

The judge called recess, and we walked through the rain back to the car, parked so many blocks away. Federal court is in the central business district. It’s frustrating.

By Mikhail K. (U.S. Nero)

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Attorney Mikhail Responds to Dick DeGuerin’s Incredulousness

“Nothing about this case makes sense. In Fifty years of practice I’ve never heard of an indictment being returned three days after the complaint was filed. It seems we now are witnessing a tug-o-war between the State of Louisiana and the Federal Government over who gets the first shot at Bob Durst. All the while the State of California is silent. Someone should ask what the Hell is going on.” ~ Dick DeGuerin on Robert Durst’s increasingly chaotic court schedule

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Dick DeGuerin can try all he wants to make his client and himself look like victims. But nobody who’s paying attention has to ask what the hell is going on.

On April 2, the city of New Orleans held a preliminary hearing to determine if they had enough evidence to indict Robert Durst on drug and weapon charges. Durst’s legal team, headed by DeGuerin, had argued that FBI agents illegally searched Durst’s hotel room before obtaining a warrant.

DeGuerin apparently believed he could tie up the legal system and have the case thrown out. Prosecutor Mark Burton complained that the Durst legal team issued close to 200 pages of motions less than 48 hours before the hearing, creating a mound of paperwork that was impossible to pour through in the given time. He asked for an extension. Interestingly, Judge Harry Cantrell exhibited zero sympathy for the prosecutor, whom one would think he’d be trying to work with in order to prosecute a slippery multiple offender who has basically spent his entire life floating above the confines of the law. Cantrell looked uncomfortable and annoyed by Burton’s pleas and granted him only one work day for an extension, instead of the ten he requested. His reasoning: “Lawyers have to work on weekends.”

Amid the pile of paperwork submitted by Durst’s legal team were subpoenas for the two FBI agents who arrested Durst. DeGuerin wanted to prove under examination that their full search of his hotel room had been illegal, and that a proper search warrant had been obtained post facto. Unsurprisingly, the FBI agents did not attend the last minute court hearing, and U.S. Attorney Duane Evans testified that they needed more time for vetting. DeGuerin replied, “It doesn’t take any time to prepare to speak the truth.” He then threatened to have the FBI agents charged with contempt of court and suggested that since the prosecution admittedly did not have a case at the time of the hearing and since the defense did not have the witnesses it had asked for, the case should simply be thrown out.

It appeared the prosecution didn’t have all its ducks in a row. And that DeGuerin was successfully exploiting loopholes in underwritten legislation to undermine the legal process. Prosecutor Burton was shrill in making a case for due process, arguing that the last minute motions filed by the defense were effectively stripping the prosecution of its due process, which it deserved as much as any private citizen. U.S. Attorney Evans twice made an argument that folded in on itself. He would begin by saying that the subpoenas issued by Durst’s legal team were missing certain clauses to make them legitimate. He would then switch to an argument that they simply needed more time to be vetted, making it seem like his argument about improper paperwork would fall apart under scrutiny. Eventually, he made a quip about these subpoenas arriving on his desk “on April Fool’s Day” which earned a laugh from the room.

DeGuerin was really confident on April 2. And rightly so. The judge seemed to be on his side. The prosecutor spent the entire time whining. The hearing was delayed until the following Thursday. But that hearing never took place. By Thursday April 9, Durst had been indicted by a grand jury for possession of narcotics and an unregistered firearm. The next day, he was indicted by the federal government for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. None of this should come as any surprise. Could DeGuerin have thought the feds would react well to him threatening FBI agents with contempt of court? Attorney Chick Foret, who has been closely following the case, tweeted, “When Durst lawyers tried to subpoena FBI agents, they woke up a sleeping dog.” DeGuerin threw the first punch and is now crying victim over the pummelling.

The sudden Louisiana indictment may have been a power play to snap failing proceedings into a more desirable direction. The sudden federal indictment was more than likely an attempt by the federal government to rescue the case when Louisiana was apparently dropping the ball. Tellingly, DeGuerin’s only complaint has been that these events are unprecedented, not illegal. With his legal knowledge, he’d surely be crying fowl if any abuse of power had taken place. Instead, he’s on the defensive now, complaining about the sort of unorthodox behavior that he revels in. He’s beginning to sound a little like Burton did on April 2.

Dick DeGuerin is a very good attorney. His personable yet professional affect makes it easy to forget how serious the charges against his client really are. He plays the role of a sensible professional navigating a frustrating and unfair legal framework. On April 2’s preliminary hearing, he made the prosecution look incompetent. The federal government had to step in and take responsibility away from the city of New Orleans, whose judge and prosecutor weren’t even getting along, much less working together to ensure a tough trial for a notoriously difficult suspect. The Feds also had to respond to DeGuerin’s grandstanding and attempted bullying of their agents. That’s the short end of “what the hell is going on.”

During the April 2nd hearing, DeGuerin accused the prosecution of playing “hide the ball” for failing to present his witnesses and delaying the trial. Now he’s comparing himself to a short stop who has to “go where the ball goes.” It’s going to take more than folksy sports analogies to get this trial going his way again. And his insistence that Durst be extradited to Los Angeles is proving thinner and more fruitless every day. Simultaneous possession of an unregistered firearm and felony quantities of narcotics is a major offense that spells the end of the road for any run-of-the-mill non-millionaire. Even without a prior felony conviction. Arguing that these charges aren’t serious enough to warrant a real trial compared to the far greater crimes his client is charged with in California does not make DeGuerin look like a common sense professional navigating a silly bureaucracy. It makes him look like a sleazy mouth piece defending an entitled psychopath.

Mikhail (U.S. Nero)