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New indictment follows millionaire's acquittal

By John Springer
Court TV

Robert Durst reacts to the news of his November acquittal.
Robert Durst reacts to the news of his November acquittal.

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(Court TV) -- Robert Durst, the multimillionaire Manhattanite acquitted of murdering an elderly Texas man, was house hunting last month in anticipation of his release from jail soon.

That all changed Thursday when Durst was hit with a new indictment for tampering with evidence -- the remains of his 71-year-old neighbor. Durst admitted dismembering the body of his drinking buddy, Morris Black, in the low-rent Galveston apartment house where they lived, but maintained the shooting itself was self-defense.

Texas Judge Susan Criss set bail on the new evidence tampering charge at $1 billion. Durst's lawyers have already appealed bonds totaling $2 billion that Criss set in connection with two bail-jumping charges.

The bail-jumping counts stemmed from Durst's failure to appear in court in October 2001. After posting $350,000 bail, Durst fled Galveston before police realized their suspect was a millionaire, not the down-and-out drifter Durst appeared to be.

Durst was acquitted of murder on Nov. 11, 2003, after jurors concluded there was no evidence to prove he intentionally killed Black. Durst testified that Black was shot in the face accidentally when the two men wrestled for Durst's gun inside Durst's apartment.

The verdict stunned many people, especially in light of the fact that Durst admitted he cut up the body, tossed the pieces in Galveston Bay and then posed as Black during two months of life on the lam. Jurors also knew that Durst remains a suspect in the February 1982 disappearance of his wife and the December 2001 murder of his best friend.

Durst denies any wrongdoing in either case and was never charged.

Criss told Thursday that neither Durst nor his lawyers were in court when she set the bond on the new indictment. If convicted of evidence tampering, Durst could spend two to 10 years in a Texas prison.

Durst's lead lawyer, Dick DeGuerin, could not be reached. Local media in Texas, however, quoted DeGuerin as saying the new indictment amounted to "sour grapes" on the part of prosecutors who lost a case that many thought would be a sure thing.

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