Infamous real estate scion Robert Durst has pleaded guilty to gun possession charges in New Orleans, and now faces seven years and one month in federal prison in a plea agreement. The guilty plea means that Durst will likely be transferred to prison in California by mid-August, where he will be forced to face murder charges in the death of his former confidante, Susan Berman.
Durst was arrested in New Orleans in 2015 after a search of his hotel room turned up a .38-caliber revolver, which was illegal for him to possess because he is a convicted felon. Durst's lawyers had argued that the FBI did not have probable cause for the search, which investigators said was justified because they feared Durst was preparing to flee the country. From the NY Times:
Mr. Durst and his defense team, led by Dick De Guerin, appear to have miscalculated in New Orleans. The defense had argued that the search of Mr. Durst’s hotel room by two F.B.I. agents was illegal and that the evidence they turned up, in particular the revolver, should be thrown out.
Federal prosecutors and investigators from Los Angeles disputed that account and countered that a second, independent search, conducted hours later by Los Angeles detectives, was unquestionably legal.
Mr. Durst’s lawyers were so confident that the federal judge in the case, Helen G. Berrigan, would throw out the evidence that they never formalized a proposed plea agreement that would have meant a sentence of up to 27 months, according to lawyers briefed on the negotiations who were not authorized to discuss them.
Instead, Judge Berrigan sided with the prosecution in October, leaving the defense with little leverage in subsequent plea negotiations.
Investigators believe Durst, 72, killed Berman in her Los Angeles home in 2000 because he feared she would reveal that he was allegedly responsible for the disappearance of his wife, Kathleen, in 1982. Some investigators also still believe he murdered a Texas neighbor, Morris Black, in 2001, cutting up his body and tossing the remains into Galveston Bay. A jury acquitted him of the murder charges in that case in 2003, though Durst pleaded guilty to charges of bond jumping and evidence tampering. Black's head was never found.
The history of chilling allegations against Durst, who is worth an estimated $100 million, were given greater exposure when HBO broadcast The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst, last year. Durst cooperated with the filmmakers, perhaps too much for his own good: the final installment of the series concludes with Durst entering a bathroom while still wearing a wireless mic, which recorded him muttering, "There it is. You’re caught. What a disaster," and "What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course."
Asked about the forthcoming arraignment for Berman's death in Los Angles, Durst's lead lawyer Dick De Guerin told the Times, "They’ve got a TV show and 15-year-old evidence that wasn’t good enough back then, and certainly isn’t good enough now."