NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - A New Orleans judge on Wednesday sentenced real estate scion Robert Durst to seven years in prison for a federal gun crime and agreed to recommend that he serve his time in California, where he faces a murder charge in a friend’s 2000 death.
The 73-year-old, who entered and left the courtroom in a wheelchair, had pleaded guilty to the gun charge in February.
Speaking in a weak voice, he asked U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt to speed his transfer to California, so he can defend himself in the death of writer Susan Berman.
“I truly, truly want to express my statement that I am not guilty of killing Susan Berman,” said Durst, appearing thin in his loose-fitting orange prison jumpsuit.
Durst has been held in Louisiana since his March 2015 arrest on a charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm after a search of his New Orleans hotel room turned up a handgun.
His arrest came one day before the series finale of an HBO documentary entitled, “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst,” which chronicled several police investigations of the multimillionaire whose family is known for its significant New York real estate holdings.
Engelhardt approved a plea agreement calling for an 85-month prison stint, followed by three years of supervised release. The judge said the deal also resolved several pending charges against Durst in New York, Texas, and Louisiana state court.
The HBO series documented investigations of Durst in connection with the dismemberment killing of a male neighbor in Texas in 2003, for which he was tried and acquitted of murder, and the 1982 disappearance in New York of his wife, Kathleen.
In the series’ final episode, Durst’s voice was captured on a microphone after an interview as he muttered that he had “killed them all.”
Durst has previous convictions in Texas related to jumping bail and carrying a weapon across state lines in 2004 as he tried to flee the murder prosecution there. Durst served about three years in connection with those charges.
Prosecutors say Durst, who has long been estranged from his family, is worth some $100 million.
Durst could move to California within four to six weeks, his attorney Dick DeGuerin said before Wednesday’s hearing. He was expected to be arraigned on the murder charge in Los Angeles on August 18.
Writing by Letitia Stein. Editing by Paul Simao and Alistair Bell