Durst, in his own words

Sus­pect, who pleaded not guilty to weapons charges, tells The Times about foot­ball, opera and his health.

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - By Molly Hen­nessy-Fiske molly.hen­nessy-fiske @la­times.com

In a let­ter to the Los An­ge­les Times, New York real es­tate mag­nate Robert Durst steers clear of his legal woes.

NEW OR­LEANS — In a scrawl­ing, hand­writ­ten let­ter to The Times, mur­der sus­pect Robert Durst doesn’t speak of the se­ri­ous charges he now faces but in­stead writes wist­fully of his days in Los An­ge­les.

The real es­tate scion muses about watch­ing the city lights, the hope­less traf­fic con­ges­tion, spend­ing time at a Sun­set Boule­vard cof­fee shop and his love of at­tend­ing the opera.

“I loved watch­ing the traf­fic come up La Cienega and mush into Santa Mon­ica,” he wrote in his two-page let­ter, post­marked nearly two weeks af­ter his ar­rest in the mys­te­ri­ous mur­der of au­thor Su­san Ber­man, found shot in the head at her Bene­dict Canyon home 14 years ago.

Durst blames L.A.’s po­lit­i­cal and busi­ness lead­ers for the ab­sence of pro­fes­sional foot­ball in Los An­ge­les, ridicules a per­for­mance of Wag­ner’s “Ring” cy­cle as be­ing a “true ex­am­ple of Hol­ly­wood gone berserk” and ru­mi­nates on his own med­i­cal con­di­tion.

“I have said noth­ing about charges, crimes or tri­als,” he adds. “I’m sure you know what your abil­i­ties are to visit me when I get to L.A.”

But it seems un­likely Durst will be com­ing to Cal­i­for­nia any­time soon.

Nearly af­ter a month af­ter his ar­rest, the 71-year-old sub­ject of the HBO doc­u­men­tary “The Jinx” was in Or­leans Parish Crim­i­nal Dis­trict Court Thurs­day to plead not guilty to state weapons charges, a case that has de­layed his ex­tra­di­tion to Cal­i­for­nia.

In court, Durst greeted his three at­tor­neys with a “Good morn­ing,” but looked fee­ble. He shuf­fled in wear­ing a yel­low jail jump­suit and plas­tic san­dals, shack­led and with his head shaved, to hear a judge read the charges against him — in­clud­ing a list more than 10 aliases — and ask how he pleaded.

Durst leaned to­ward his lead at­tor­ney, Dick DeGuerin, who whis­pered in his ear be­fore he replied.

“I am not guilty, your honor,” Durst said, his voice thin and even.

“On both counts?” Judge Franz Zi­bilich asked.

Durst again paused to con­sult DeGuerin. “Yes,” he said. Durst was ar­rested March 14 when FBI agents stopped him on a Cal­i­for­nia mur­der war­rant and found a .38 re­volver and mar­i­juana in his ho­tel room. Agents had tracked the mil­lion­aire from his home in Hous­ton and feared he had a plan to es­cape to Cuba.

His at­tor­neys have been clear that they see the weapons charges as a dis­trac­tion and would rather be in L.A. fight­ing the 2000 mur­der case. “I feel like we’re be­ing tag-teamed,” DeGuerin said af­ter Thurs­day’s hear­ing. “And I feel like we need to be in Cal­i­for­nia where the main case is so we can try the case.”

Durst was in­dicted on state charges of pos­sess­ing a firearm as a con­victed felon and pos­sess­ing a firearm with a con­trolled sub­stance, and now faces sim­i­lar fed­eral weapons charges.

His at­tor­neys have waived ex­tra­di­tion and at­tempted to sub­poena the FBI agents who picked him up to tes­tify about the ar­rest and searches so that they can get the charges dis­missed. But fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors or­dered the agents not to ap­pear at a hear­ing last week, and per­suaded the mag­is­trate to con­tinue the hear­ing.

On Thurs­day, DeGuerin re­it­er­ated that at Durst’s next hear­ing “it will be nec­es­sary to have two, maybe one of the fed­eral agents there.... We run into a stump with that be­cause although we fol­lowed all the pro­ce­dures to have them ap­pear at a hear­ing last week, they filed a re­moval” to fed­eral court.

As­sis­tant Or­leans Parish Dist. Atty. Laura Ro­drigue, who led the state case Thurs­day, balked.

“We are not ob­li­gated to present wit­nesses,” she told the judge.

“They’re just pil­ing on,” DeGuerin said later. “Now we’re fight­ing three ju­ris­dic­tions: L.A. won’t give us the time of day, New Or­leans like­wise has been avoid­ing hav­ing a hear­ing and the feds have filed the same charges that the state filed.”

Fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors have asked that Durst ap­pear in court no later than April 16 to en­ter a plea to the fed­eral weapons charges.

Durst is be­ing held with­out bond about 70 miles west in a med­i­cal unit of Elayn Hunt Cor­rec­tional Cen­ter.

Gerald Her­bert As­so­ci­ated Press

ROBERT DURST was in­dicted on two weapons charges in Louisiana and now faces sim­i­lar fed­eral charges, as well as a mur­der charge in Cal­i­for­nia.

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