NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - Real estate scion Robert Durst pleaded not guilty on Thursday in Louisiana state court to firearms charges, as prospects for his swift extradition to California to face a murder charge appeared increasingly remote.
Prosecutors in California have been seeking Durst’s return to Los Angeles County, where he stands accused of the 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.
A grand jury in New Orleans indicted Durst on Wednesday on charges of possessing a weapon as a felon and carrying a firearm with a controlled substance.
A federal criminal complaint filed a day earlier similarly accused him of possessing a weapon as a felon. His attorneys on Thursday attended a closed-door hearing on that case, in 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.
Durst’s attorneys have argued that FBI agents who arrested him and initially searched his hotel room did so improperly.
Durst is next due in court on the Louisiana state charges on May 7.
Also on Thursday, the Los Angeles Times published a letter apparently from Durst, in which the writer fondly recalled living in Los Angeles, expressed enjoying professional football and opera and said he left California for Houston for a medical procedure, but made no mention of the charges against him.
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 and acquitted of murder, and the 1982 disappearance of his wife, Kathleen, in New York.
Toward the end of the series, he was presented with evidence his handwriting appeared to match that of Berman’s likely killer. Durst’s voice was subsequently captured on a microphone as saying he had “killed them all.”
Durst has long been estranged from his powerful family, known for its significant New York real estate holdings.
Reporting by Jonathan Kaminsky in New Orleans; Editing by Will Dunham and Lisa Lambert