New York real estate scion Robert Durst –– who is charged in Los Angeles with murdering a friend just before Christmas Eve 2000 — was sentenced Wednesday to seven years in federal prison in a gun case filed in Louisiana.
Durst, 73, is expected to be moved at the defense’s request to the federal prison on Terminal Island in Southern California to begin serving the term while awaiting arraignment on a capital murder charge in the death of Susan Berman, who was killed on or about Dec. 23, 2000, in her Benedict Canyon home.
During the hearing in U.S. District Court in Louisiana, Durst said he had been waiting about a year to be transferred to Los Angeles to enter “my not guilty plea” in the murder case.
The murder charge includes the special circumstance allegations of murder of a witness and murder while lying in wait, along with gun use allegations. Prosecutors will decide later whether to seek the death penalty against him.
Last December, Los Angeles County prosecutors and attorneys for Durst jointly filed an agreement that could result in him being sent to Los Angeles for arraignment by Aug. 18.
Authorities suspect Durst killed Berman because prosecutors in New York’s Westchester County were about to interview her about the 1982 disappearance of Durst’s first wife, Kathleen “Kathie” McCormack Durst, who was in the process of divorcing him.
According to court papers, Los Angeles police detectives claim two handwriting experts have linked Durst to an anonymous letter alerting authorities to a “cadaver” at Berman’s home.
Durst — who was profiled in the HBO documentary series “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst,” was arrested March 14, 2015, in a New Orleans hotel room.
Durst has admitted to killing and dismembering Morris Black, a man who lived across from him in Galveston, Texas, where Durst fled while authorities were trying to make a case against him in both cases.
He went on trial for Black’s death in 2003 — after a nationwide manhunt located him in Pennsylvania — but he was acquitted by a jury that deemed Black’s killing was an act of self-defense.
Durst has been long estranged from his real-estate-rich family, known for ownership of a series of New York City skyscrapers — including an investment in the World Trade Center. Durst split with the family when his younger brother was placed in charge of the family business, leading to a drawn- out legal battle.
According to various media reports, Durst ultimately reached a settlement under which the family paid him $60 million to $65 million.
Durst’s arrest came hours before the airing of the final episode of “The Jinx,” which examined the disappearance of his wife in 1982, Berman’s execution-style killing and Black’s killing.
On the documentary series finale, which aired the day after his arrest, Durst was caught on microphone saying to himself, “Killed them all, of course.”
He also was caught on microphone saying, “There it is, you’re caught,” and “What a disaster.”
Three days after a judge signed an arrest warrant for Durst in the Los Angeles case, FBI agents located him in a hotel room where he had checked in under the alias Everette Ward, and discovered a loaded Smith and Wesson .38- caliber revolver, a “realistic mask” and more than $40,000 in cash, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Durst was indicted last April in U.S. District Court in Louisiana on a charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm, and subsequently pleaded guilty to that charge.
—Staff and wire reports
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