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Robert Durst Pleads Guilty to Gun Charges

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Robert Durst Pleads Guilty to Gun Charges

Robert A. Durst’s luck may be running out.

Mr. Durst, the estranged scion of a New York real estate family who has long been a suspect in several murders, pleaded guilty in New Orleans federal court on Wednesday to illegally possessing a .38-caliber revolver.

In March 2015, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, fearing that Mr. Durst was about to flee the country, arrested him at the J.W. Marriott Hotel on Canal Street, where he had registered under an alias. During a search, they discovered the handgun. Because Mr. Durst, 72, is a convicted felon, it is illegal for him to possess a firearm. His arrest came as the cable network HBO was broadcasting a six-part documentary about him, which turned him into a notorious national figure.

Under a plea bargain arrangement, Mr. Durst will be sentenced to 85 months in federal prison.

Mr. Durst will eventually be transferred to federal prison in Los Angeles to face charges that he murdered a former confidante, Susan Berman. Under the plea agreement, the prosecution has to arraign Mr. Durst there by Aug. 18.

The resolution of that case could wrap up the mysteries that have enveloped Mr. Durst for the past 34 years.

Mr. Durst is the oldest son of Seymour Durst, whose family owns a dozen skyscrapers in Manhattan. Robert Durst broke with his family in 1994, after his father and uncle picked his younger brother Douglas to take over the business.

Mr. Durst’s first wife, Kathleen, abruptly disappeared in 1982, and the authorities believe that he killed Ms. Berman to ensure she did not reveal what she knew about the case.

Over the years, Mr. Durst, who is worth more than $100 million, has benefited from some of the best defense lawyers money could buy. He was never charged in the disappearance of his first wife.

In 2003, a jury in Galveston, Tex., acquitted him of murder charges, despite his grisly testimony explaining how he cut up the body of a neighbor, Morris Black, and threw the parts into Galveston Bay. The head is still missing.

Mr. Durst claimed that Mr. Black’s death was an accident that occurred while the two men grappled over a gun. Investigators in New York, California and Texas do not believe it was self-defense. Mr. Durst later pleaded guilty to charges of bond jumping and evidence tampering in connection with the case.

Mr. Durst and his defense team, led by Dick De Guerin, appear to have miscalculated in New Orleans. The defense had argued that the search of Mr. Durst’s hotel room by two F.B.I. agents was illegal and that the evidence they turned up, in particular the revolver, should be thrown out.

Federal prosecutors and investigators from Los Angeles disputed that account and countered that a second, independent search, conducted hours later by Los Angeles detectives, was unquestionably legal.

Mr. Durst’s lawyers were so confident that the federal judge in the case, Helen G. Berrigan, would throw out the evidence that they never formalized a proposed plea agreement that would have meant a sentence of up to 27 months, according to lawyers briefed on the negotiations who were not authorized to discuss them.

Instead, Judge Berrigan sided with the prosecution in October, leaving the defense with little leverage in subsequent plea negotiations.

Mr. Durst’s lawyers say they have been eager to resolve matters in New Orleans so they can get to Los Angeles to answer what they say are spurious murder charges. Once Mr. Durst is arraigned in Los Angeles, the defense has the right to discovery and a look at the prosecution’s case against him.

“They’ve got a TV show and 15-year-old evidence that wasn’t good enough back then,” Mr. De Guerin said, “and certainly isn’t good enough now.”

The “TV show” is “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst,” which was broadcast on HBO in February and March of 2015. Mr. Durst cooperated in the making of the film, giving the producers more than 20 hours of interviews and turning over reams of court records, phone bills and credit card statements.

At one point, the filmmakers confronted Mr. Durst with strong similarities between the handwriting on a letter he sent to Ms. Berman and on a note the police received after her killing, alerting them to the existence of a “cadaver.”

The documentary concluded with Mr. Durst’s own words, uttered while he seemed unaware that his microphone was still recording: “What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course.”

Mr. Durst’s defense team will be going up against John Lewin, a Los Angeles County deputy district attorney who has a reputation as a skilled prosecutor of cold cases, including murders. Mr. Lewin has flown to New York repeatedly to interview witnesses, including friends of Ms. Berman and Mr. Durst.

Mr. Lewin also interviewed Mr. Durst for 90 minutes in New Orleans, although the defense will almost certainly challenge the admissibility of that encounter given that his lawyers were not present.

Lawyers are expecting legal battles over handwriting experts and Mr. Durst’s utterances during “The Jinx.” Mr. Lewin must also contend with memories that in some cases are 34 years old.

Ms. Berman and Mr. Durst became fast friends after they met in Los Angeles in the late 1960s. “She was really smart and really interesting,” said Julie Smith, a mystery writer who was close to Ms. Berman. “You never knew what she would say or do. And she had a fascinating background.”

The daughter of a Jewish gangster, Ms. Berman was a promising magazine writer living in New York in 1982 when Kathleen Durst disappeared. Her body was never found. During that investigation, Ms. Berman served as Mr. Durst’s shield against inquiring reporters.

“He was like a brother to her,” said Kim Lankford, Ms. Berman’s friend. “She always spoke of Bobby adoringly.”

But investigators also believe that Ms. Berman knew Mr. Durst’s secrets, which put her in jeopardy in October 2000, when he learned that the authorities had reopened the investigation into Kathleen Durst’s disappearance.

In “The Jinx,” Mr. Durst said that Ms. Berman had called him shortly before her death to say that the authorities wanted to interview her.

Two months later, Ms. Berman was found dead in her Los Angeles home, shot in the back of the head.

Although the police investigation looked at other suspects, it eventually focused on Mr. Durst, who was in California at the time of Ms. Berman’s death.

Ms. Berman, who was in dire financial shape before she died, was fiercely loyal to her friends, Ms. Smith said. Mr. Durst lent her $50,000.

“She described Bobby as the greatest guy in the world and how sweet he was,” Ms. Smith said. “She was not going to rat him out.”

Entrepreneur, contributor, writer, and editor of Sostre News. With a powerful new bi-lingual speaking generation by his side, Sostre News is becoming the preferred site for the latest in Politics, Entertainment, Sports, Culture, Tech, Breaking and World News.

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Three Disney World Employees Among 17 Arrested in Florida Child Sex Sting

Three Disney World employees were among the 17 people arrested in a child sex sting operation in Florida, law enforcement officials announced on Wednesday.

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Three Disney World Employees Among 17 Arrested in Florida Child Sex Sting

Three Disney World employees were among the 17 people arrested in a child sex sting operation in Florida, law enforcement officials announced on Wednesday.

In the operation, dubbed “Operation Child Protector,” undercover officers posed as 13- and 14-year-old children on social media and online dating apps between July 27 and Aug. 1.

The undercovers made contact with each of the suspects before proposing they meet at a location in Polk County, where they were busted.

In total, the arrests led to 49 felony and two misdemeanor charges. Those arrested were aged 26 to 47. All were from Central Florida except for one 33-year-old man from California.

“What you see on this board … are deviants. Incredible deviants,” Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said at a press conference on Tuesday, motioning to photos of the alleged pervs. “They travel from as far away as Clewiston, Florida. One even came from Los Angeles.”

“Much to their chagrin, instead of meeting with young children, they were met by law enforcement officers who were online undercover posing as children.”

Kenneth Javier Aquino, 26, a lifeguard at Animal Kingdom Lodge at Disney World, was arrested while still wearing his Disney polo shirt and swimsuit, according to the sheriff’s office.

Aquino engaged in an online conversation on social media with an officer, posing as a 13-year-old girl, authorities said. He then asked the “girl” to send photos, and sent her an explicit video of himself, police said.

Aquino told officers he is a Navy veteran and has a pregnant girlfriend.

Jonathan McGrew, a 34-year-old custodian at Disney World, was nabbed by an undercover officer posing as a 13-year-old girl.

disney-world

McGrew allegedly told the “girl” that he wanted her to come over and have sex with him and his girlfriend, 29-year-old Savannah Lawrence, who also works as a custodian at tourist mecca.

McGrew sent her explicit videos of him and Lawrence performing sexual acts on each other, authorities said.

A rep for Disney World didn’t immediately return a message.

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China Reports First Human Death from Monkey B Virus

China has reported the first human infection and death in the country caused by a rare infectious disease found in primates known as the Monkey B virus.

The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said a 53-year-old veterinary surgeon who worked in a research institute specializing in nonhuman primate breeding in Beijing dissected two monkeys in March and became ill about a month later.

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China Reports First Human Death from Monkey B Virus

China has reported the first human infection and death in the country caused by a rare infectious disease found in primates known as the Monkey B virus.

The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said a 53-year-old veterinary surgeon who worked in a research institute specializing in nonhuman primate breeding in Beijing dissected two monkeys in March and became ill about a month later.

He began experiencing nausea, vomiting, fever and neurological issues, and died in May.

Blood and saliva samples were tested and researchers in April found evidence of the Monkey B virus, also known as the herpes B virus.

Researchers said a male doctor and female nurse who were in close contact with the victim tested negative for the virus.

The Monkey B virus is prevalent among macaque monkeys but infection among humans is extremely rare. Since the virus was identified in 1932, just 50 cases have been reported, with the majority of those in North America. Untreated B virus infections in humans are serious, however, with a fatality rate of about 80 percent.

Symptoms include fever, shortness of breath, and progress to more serious complications such as swelling of the brain and spinal cord.

Laboratory workers and veterinarians in close contact with the animals are most at risk as people typically get infected with the virus if they are bitten or scratched by an infected macaque, or have contact with the monkey’s eyes, nose or mouth.

But the virus is unlikely to mutate in a way that poses a problem to the general population. Just one case of human-to-human transmission of the virus has ever been documented.

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U.S. Remembers 9/11 Terrorist Attacks as The Pandemic Changes Tribute Traditions

Americans are commemorating 9/11 with tributes that have been altered by coronavirus precautions and woven into the presidential campaign, drawing both President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden to pay respects at the same memorial without crossing paths.

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U.S. Remembers 9/11 Terrorist Attacks as The Pandemic Changes Tribute Traditions

Americans are commemorating 9/11 with tributes that have been altered by coronavirus precautions and woven into the presidential campaign, drawing both President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden to pay respects at the same memorial without crossing paths.

In New York, a dispute over coronavirus-safety precautions is leading to split-screen remembrances Friday, one at the Sept. 11 memorial plaza at the World Trade Center and another on a nearby corner. The Pentagon’s observance will be so restricted that not even victims’ families can attend, though small groups can visit the memorial there later in the day.

Trump and Biden are both headed — at different times — to the Flight 93 National Memorial near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

Trump is speaking at the morning ceremony, the White House said. Biden plans to pay respects there in the afternoon after attending the observance at the 9/11 memorial in New York.

Meanwhile, Vice President Mike Pence is also due at ground zero — and then at the alternate ceremony a few blocks away.

In short, the anniversary of 9/11 is a complicated occasion in a maelstrom of a year, as the U.S. grapples with a health crisis, searches its soul over racial injustice and prepares to choose a leader to chart a path forward.

Still, 9/11 families say it’s important for the nation to pause and remember the hijacked-plane attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people at the trade center, at the Pentagon and near Shanksville on Sept. 11, 2001, shaping American policy, perceptions of safety and daily life in places from airports to office buildings.

“I know that the heart of America beats on 9/11 and, of course, thinks about that tragic day. I don’t think that people forget,” says Anthoula Katsimatides, who lost her brother John and is now on the board of the National Sept. 11 Memorial & Museum.

Friday will mark Trump’s second time observing the 9/11 anniversary at the Flight 93 memorial, where he made remarks in 2018. Biden spoke at the memorial’s dedication in 2011, when he was vice president.

The ground zero ceremony in New York has a longstanding custom of not allowing politicians to speak, though they can attend. Biden did so as vice president in 2010, and Trump as a candidate in 2016.

Though the candidates will be focused on the commemorations, the political significance of their focus on Shanksville is hard to ignore: Pennsylvania is a must-win state for both. Trump won it by less than a percentage point in 2016.

Around the country, some communities have canceled 9/11 commemorations because of the pandemic, while others are going ahead, sometimes with modifications.

The New York memorial is changing one of its ceremony’s central traditions: having relatives read the names of the dead, often adding poignant tributes.

Thousands of family members are still invited. But they’ll hear a recording of the names from speakers spread around the vast plaza, a plan that memorial leaders felt would avoid close contact at a stage but still allow families to remember their loved ones at the place where they died.

But some victims’ relatives felt the change robbed the observance of its emotional impact. A different 9/11-related group, the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, set up its own, simultaneous ceremony a few blocks away, saying there’s no reason that people can’t recite names while keeping a safe distance.

The two organizations also tussled over the Tribute in Light, a pair of powerful beams that shine into the night sky near the trade center and evoke its fallen twin towers. The 9/11 memorial initially canceled the display, citing virus-safety concerns for the installation crew. After the Tunnel to Towers Foundation vowed to put up the lights instead, the memorial changed course with help from its chairman, former Mayor Mike Bloomberg, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Tunnel to Towers, meanwhile, arranged to display single beams for the first time at the Shanksville memorial and the Pentagon.

Over the years, the anniversary also has become a day for volunteering. Because of the pandemic, the 9/11 National Day of Service and Remembrance organization is encouraging people this year to make donations or take other actions that can be accomplished at home.

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