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April 09, 2015

Robert Durst pleads not guilty to La. gun charges

In the wake of an HBO documentary, Durst awaits extradition to California on murder charges

Robert Durst, the real estate scion awaiting extradition to California to face a murder charge, pleaded not guilty in Louisiana state court on Thursday to firearms offenses stemming from his arrest last month in New Orleans.

Prosecutors in California have been seeking Durst's return to Los Angeles County, where he stands accused of the December 2000 slaying of a longtime friend, Susan Berman, in a case recently chronicled in the HBO documentary series "The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst."

The final episode of the series aired one day after his March 14 arrest at a New Orleans hotel, where authorities said he was staying under an assumed name with $42,000 in cash, a revolver, a stash of marijuana and a latex mask.

Prospects for his extradition to California apparently were complicated on Wednesday when a grand jury in New Orleans indicted him on charges of possessing a weapon as a felon and carrying a firearm with a controlled substance.

Durst, 71, who has been denied bail as a flight risk, is next due in court on the New Orleans charges on May 7.

Attorneys in the case are also due in federal court in New Orleans on Thursday afternoon on a related charge stemming from a complaint filed on Tuesday asserting Durst possessed a weapon as a felon, for which he has not been indicted.

"I feel like we're being tag-teamed, and I feel like we need to be in California where the main case is so we can try the case," Dick DeGuerin, an attorney for Durst, told reporters outside the state courthouse on Thursday.

Durst's attorneys have previously argued that FBI agents who arrested him and conducted an initial search of his hotel room did so without the proper warrants.

The HBO series documented several police investigations of Durst over the years, including the dismemberment killing of a  male neighbor in Texas in 2003 for which he was tried on murder charges and acquitted, and the 1982 disappearance of his wife, Kathleen, in New York. 

Toward the end of the series, he was presented with evidence that his handwriting appeared to match that of Berman's likely killer. Durst's voice was subsequently captured on a microphone as he said that he had "killed them all."

He has long been estranged from his powerful family, known for its significant New York real estate holdings.