Durst attorney: Potential new charges may delay extradition
Wealthy eccentric Robert Durst agreed Monday to be returned to Los Angeles to face a murder charge in the shooting 15 years ago of a mobster's daughter who acted as his spokeswoman. But one of his lawyers said the trip may be delayed by new charges in Louisiana.
Monday, March 16th 2015, 2:01 pm EDT
Monday, March 16th 2015, 2:01 pm EDT
By JANET MCCONNAUGHEY and BRIAN MELLEY
NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Wealthy eccentric Robert Durst agreed Monday to be returned to Los Angeles to face a murder charge in the shooting 15 years ago of a mobster's daughter who acted as his spokeswoman. But one of his lawyers said the trip may be delayed by new charges in Louisiana.
The heir to a New York real estate fortune shuffled into a New Orleans courtroom with his hands shackled at his waist, wearing sandals and an orange jumpsuit. He turned to the gallery and smiled, then appeared to fall asleep. Later, he answered "yes" to a judge's questions about waiving extradition.
Magistrate Harry Cantrell said Durst could be taken to California immediately. He also agreed that pain medication would be provided before the trip, after attorney Dick DeGuerin said Durst has had "neurosurgery."
DeGuerin later said outside court that the trip to California may be delayed because New Orleans prosecutors are considering other unspecified charges against him. He wouldn't elaborate, and spokesman Christopher Bowman said the Orleans Parish district attorney's office won't comment.
These consequences came only hours after Sunday's finale of an HBO documentary detailing his life of privilege and links to three deaths: his friend in Los Angeles, Susan Berman; his wife in New York, Kathleen Durst; and Morris Black, an elderly neighbor in Texas.
Durst is heard muttering that he "killed them all, of course," at the end of "The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst."
Authorities were hoping Monday that this and other evidence will finally lead to a conviction.
Durst was arrested without incident by FBI agents on Saturday at a Marriott hotel in New Orleans. That's where he had been laying low to avoid the growing attention from the documentary, his longtime lawyer, Chip Lewis, told The Associated Press.
It was by far not the first time in handcuffs for Durst, who still has millions of dollars despite his estrangement from one of America's wealthiest families, with assets of about $4 billion, made from a New York real estate empire that includes the World Trade Center 1 building.
Just last year, he was fined for urinating on the candy racks at a CVS pharmacy in Houston, where he keeps a townhouse. Lewis called that an "unfortunate medical mishap," and attributed it in part to Asperger's syndrome, which he says Durst suffers from.
Former prosecutor Jeanine Pirro believes her reopening of the cold case into Kathleen Durst's disappearance provoked the murder of Berman, who had been Durst's confidante.
Pirro said Monday that Durst's own words, recorded during and after a lengthy interview he gave to the filmmaker, are enough to convict him.
Durst acknowledges on videotape the similarities in the handwriting of a letter he wrote and another one sent anonymously to Beverly Hills Police alerting them to his friend's "cadaver."
Then he went to the bathroom, still wearing his live microphone.
What followed was bizarre rambling in which Durst said, apparently to himself, "There it is. You're caught" and "What the hell did I do? Killed them all of course."
Sunday's show ended with plenty of questions unanswered.
It wasn't immediately clear whether filmmaker Andrew Jarecki ever confronted Durst about the words recorded in the bathroom, what exactly Durst meant by them, and to what extent the filmmakers cooperated with authorities.
Durst's longtime lawyer, Chip Lewis, smelled a setup, calling Jarecki "duplicitous" for not making it clear to Durst that he would be sharing information with police.
Lewis also suspects the timing of Durst's arrest was coordinated between the authorities and HBO for maximum impact.
"It's all about Hollywood now," Lewis said.
Los Angeles Deputy Police Chief Kirk Albanese scoffed at that.
"The HBO series had nothing to do with his arrest. We do police work based on the facts and evidence, not based on the HBO series. I know there's lots of speculation about that. It had nothing to do with the show," Albanese told The AP on Monday.
As for the timing of the arrest, Albanese said police were "definitely" concerned about the possibility he would flee the country.
Jarecki, for his part, told ABC's "Good Morning America" on Monday that he had no idea the arrest was coming.
Durst was already acquitted of one murder but suspected in two others when he willingly talked with Jarecki on camera. They met after the filmmaker told a fictionalized account of Durst's story in "All Good Things," a 2010 film starring Ryan Gosling.
Jarecki told "Good Morning America" that he didn't even know about the bathroom audio until much later, when an editor happened to hear it.
"It was so chilling to hear it," Jarecki said. "It was disturbing to hear it. It makes you very uncomfortable to hear it."
Pirro, the former Westchester County District Attorney and current Fox-TV personality who had been gathering evidence against Durst in the 1982 disappearance of his wife Kathleen when Berman was killed in 2000, said Durst's own words can clearly be used against him in court.
"It was a spontaneous statement, a classical exception to the hearsay rule," Pirro said Monday on Fox-TV's "Good Day New York."
"I don't hear it as a muttering. I hear it as a clear, unequivocal 'I killed them.' That means he killed his wife, he killed Susan Berman and he killed Morris Black."
Lucian Chalfen, a spokesman for the current Westchester DA, said only that that Kathleen Durst's disappearance "remains an open homicide investigation and as such any new information that's developed is investigated, both by the state police and by us if we're involved."
Robert Durst has been estranged from his family since their father chose his brother Douglas to run the family business. In recent years, they took out restraining orders against him, but he was acquitted of trespassing outside their homes.
"We hope he will finally be held accountable for all he has done," Douglas Durst said in a statement Sunday.
Berman was the daughter of an associate of Las Vegas mobsters Bugsy Siegel and Meyer Lansky who spoke out on Durst's behalf after his wife disappeared. She was killed at her home near Beverly Hills with a bullet to the back of her head.
Durst then lived as a mute woman in a Texas boarding house until 2001, when dismembered parts of Black's body were found floating in Galveston Bay. He fled house arrest, then turned up shoplifting a chicken sandwich in Pennsylvania with $37,000 and a pair of guns in his rental car.
Lewis told that jury that Durst shot Black in self-defense, and he was acquitted of murder, despite admitting that he used a paring knife, two saws and an ax to dismember Black's body before dumping the remains. With time served, Durst became a free man after serving a single year for bond jumping and evidence tampering.
"The story is so operatic," Jarecki told the AP before his documentary aired. "That's what's so fascinating to me."
Melley contributed from Los Angeles. Associated Press Writers David Bauder and Verena Dobnik contributed from New York and Emiily Schmall contributed from Fort Worth, Texas.
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