NEW ORLEANS – Louisiana gun charges against real estate heir Robert Durst were dismissed Thursday, clearing the way for federal proceedings in New Orleans in a similar case.
Durst, a millionaire who also faces a murder charge in an unrelated California case, remains jailed without bond in Louisiana. Durst was arrested at a New Orleans hotel in March. Authorities said he had a gun and marijuana in his room.
The arrest came on the eve of the finale of a six-part HBO series called "The Jinx," a documentary about Durst, the disappearance of his first wife in 1982, writer-friend Susan Berman's death and the death and dismemberment of a neighbor in Texas in 2001. He is charged in Los Angeles with first-degree murder in Berman's death. His attorneys say he is eager to return to California to fight the charge.
Defense Attorney Dick DeGuerin said state and federal prosecutors had been discussing the possibility of the Louisiana gun case being dismissed. He says he was pleased with that decision.
"It makes sense to try this case in federal court because FBI agents arrested Mr. Durst, and there shouldn't be two prosecutions, state and federal, at the same time for the same crime. We're looking forward to our day in court," DeGuerin said in an e-mail.
Records at the state courthouse in New Orleans confirmed the decision not to prosecute. "The District Attorney did reserve the right to look at the case again upon its conclusion in federal court," Christopher Bowman, a spokesman for District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro said in a telephone interview.
State and federal prosecutors in New Orleans have been stressing their close working relationship over the past several years, particularly in anti-drug and anti-gang efforts. Separate, simultaneous prosecutions of similar crimes in each jurisdiction are rare.
Durst had faced state charges of possessing a handgun with drugs and illegal possession of a handgun by a felon. The charge in the federal indictment says Durst violated the federal gun-control act because he was in possession of a firearm after being convicted of earlier felonies.