By JANET McCONNAUGHEY
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A magistrate on Monday ordered millionaire Robert Durst held without bond on weapons charges in Louisiana and said the man accused of killing his friend 15 years ago in California was both a flight risk and a danger to others.
Durst, 71, was seated beside his lawyers, his hands shackled to his sides in padded cuffs. He has been in a prison’s mental health unit for nearly a week. Jail officials have called him a suicide risk.
Magistrate Harry Cantrell set a preliminary hearing in the weapons case for April 2.
Durst is accused of killing Susan Berman in 2000, but his lawyers say his arrest was illegal and orchestrated to coincide with the finale of an HBO series about his links to three killings.
He was arrested March 14 at a New Orleans hotel on both the weapons charges and on the Los Angeles County warrant accusing him of murder.
On Monday, defense attorney Dick DeGuerin said he never expected the magistrate to set bond.
“We were able to get a lot of information we didn’t have before,” DeGuerin said after the hearing. “… I think all in all we had a very good day.”
One of the weapons charges alleges that Durst had a .38-caliber revolver; previous felony convictions make that illegal. The other charge alleges he had the weapon and illegal drugs: more than 5 ounces of marijuana.
Prosecutors have not said whether they will bring those charges before a grand jury.
None of Durst’s previous convictions was serious enough to merit the felon in possession charge, his attorneys say.
Durst had registered at the J.W. Marriott Hotel under the name Everette Ward, and a search of his hotel room turned up his passport, nearly $43,000 in cash, a gun, and a rubber or latex mask that could cover his head and neck, according to a search warrant for his Houston condo.
Durst, a member of a wealthy New York real estate family, was charged with murder in California for the December 2000 shooting death of Susan Berman.
His arrest came one day before the finale of “The Jinx,” the show about his links to his first wife’s disappearance in 1982; the death of Berman, a mobster’s daughter who acted as his spokeswoman after his wife went missing; and a 71-year-old neighbor in Texas whose dismembered body was found floating in Galveston Bay in 2001. Durst has been tried only for the Texas killing, and he was acquitted of murder.
Durst waived extradition in New Orleans but is being held on the weapons charges.
During Monday’s hearing, DeGuerin asked that prosecutor-turned-TV-host Jeanine Pirro be removed from the courtroom as a potential witness. He said he wanted to question her.
“She’s here because she’s been participating in the dogging of Mr. Durst for years,” he said.
But Cantrell ruled that Pirro would not testify.
Pirro — a Fox News Channel host and former district attorney in New York’s Westchester County, where she investigated the still-unsolved disappearance of Durst’s first wife — returned to the courtroom with a small smile.
After court, Pirro said requests for comment would have to go through her employer.
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