Review Category : National News

Texas Judge in Robert Durst 2003 Murder Trial Believes ‘Jinx’ Recording Will Be Admitted in Court

HBO(GALVESTON, Texas) — The Texas judge who presided over Robert Durst’s 2003 trial in the Morris Black murder case believes the alleged confession Durst gives in an audio recording on the HBO series The Jinx will be admitted in court.

“I believe that tape will be admissible,” Galveston County Judge Susan Criss told ABC News’ 20/20. “He wasn’t coerced.”

In a powerful off-camera moment Sunday at the end of the HBO series, Durst tells filmmakers he is going to the bathroom and starts to mutter to himself while he is still wearing a microphone. He is picked up on the mic apparently saying to himself, “There it is. You’re caught! … You’re right, of course, but you can’t imagine … Arrest him! … I don’t know what’s in the house … Oh, I want this … What a disaster … He was right. I was wrong … And the burping! I’m having difficulty with the question … What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course.”

The fact that Durst, 71, was in the bathroom alone when he said it doesn’t make a difference, Criss believes.

“There was no expectation of privacy,” she said. “He’s got a mic on … he contacted them and offered to tell them his story on tape.”

Durst’s troubled history with the law, and his suspected involvement in up to three murders, spans the country and goes back more than three decades. Durst was charged in the 2001 killing of his neighbor, Morris Black, in Galveston, Texas, but was found not guilty at a 2003 trial, where Judge Criss presided.

At the time, Durst’s defense attorney, Dick DeGuerin, and his team convinced the jury that Durst killed Black in self-defense, then dismembered him and disposed of Black’s body parts in different garbage bags, then threw the bags into Galvaston Bay, because he said he was afraid authorities wouldn’t believe he acted in self-defense.

But Criss said the butchering of the body suggested Durst had previous experience with dismemberment.

“This looked like someone had done this before,” Criss told 20/20. “The medical examiner testified that the person who cut this body up knew what kind of instrument to use on what bone and what muscle in what part of the body.”

Durst, an heir to a real estate fortune, was most recently arrested in connection to the unsolved 2000 slaying of his friend, Susan Berman, who investigators believed may have had information about the 1982 disappearance of his estranged wife, Kathleen Durst. He also faces gun and drug charges in Louisiana related to the items allegedly found when he was arrested, and those charges, in combination with past convictions, could keep Durst locked up for the rest of his life.

Durst’s attorneys have maintained he is innocent of the charges and are challenging his arrest.

“I think he’s an easy target and everybody’s piling on. … They’re gonna find nothing,” Dick DeGuerin, the lead attorney on Durst’s defense team, told ABC News affiliate KTRK-TV on Thursday. “I think Louisiana and their elected officials want a piece of the publicity pie.”

As he awaits trial in Louisiana and California, Durst is on suicide watch in a Louisiana detention center that houses inmates believed to have psychiatric issues. Prosecutors were the ones who pushed for him to be placed in such a facility, saying he has “acute mental health issues.”

Durst’s legal team said he suffers from a form of Asperger syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder.

But Criss believes he is competent to stand trial again.

“Robert Durst is not the least bit crazy,” she said.

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Robert Durst’s Lawyer Challenges ‘Invalid’ Arrest

HBO(NEW ORLEANS) — Robert Durst’s legal team on Friday accused authorities in documents of arresting the real estate heir illegally, as his attorney blasted Louisiana officials for wanting a piece of the “publicity pie.”

“I think he’s an easy target and everybody’s piling on. … They’re gonna find nothing,” Dick DeGuerin, the lead attorney on Durst’s team, told ABC News affiliate KTRK-TV on Thursday. “I think Louisiana and their elected officials want a piece of the publicity pie.”

Durst is on suicide watch at a Louisiana detention center though DeGuerin said his client is not suicidal.

“He’s frail. … He has neuropathy of his right calf and needs to be in the hospital,” said DeGuerin, who said Durst had also undergone brain surgery, neck surgery and cancer surgery.

In court papers filed Friday, Durst’s lawyers requested a preliminary hearing to prove that Durst was illegally arrested March 14 on murder charges as well as drug and weapons charges.

At the time of his arrest, Durst was allegedly in possession of a .38 special revolver with four live rounds as well as marijuana, money, a fake ID and a real passport, police said.

A judge granted the hearing, which is expected to occur during Durst’s next court appearance slated for Monday.

According to a search warrant, authorities also found two books chronicling the mysterious deaths that Durst has been linked to and that were the focus of a six-part HBO series called The Jinx.

In their filing, DeGuerin and his team called the March 14 arrest warrant “invalid” and said it was filed “to coincide with the final episode of the HBO documdrama.” They have also requested his release.

Durst was arrested on a murder charge in New Orleans on March 14 in the death of best friend Susan Berman in Los Angeles in 2000. He is also suspected in the 1982 disappearance of his wife, Kathie. He was acquitted in the murder of his neighbor Morris Black in 2001. He admitted to dismembering Black, but he was found not guilty by a jury.

Los Angeles prosecutors are itching to get access to him and DeGuerin said Durst had agreed to be extradited to face the charges regarding Berman’s slaying. His attorneys maintain he is innocent.

But the millionaire currently faces gun charges and drug charges in Louisiana. It is unknown when Durst will be extradited.

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Black UVA Students Walk Out of Meeting With Law Enforcement

Photo courtesy of Martese Johnson(CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.) — A group of black students walked out of a University of Virginia student meeting in protest Friday afternoon, claiming they were left out of the planning of the event that stemmed from the bloody arrest this week of fellow African-American student Martese Johnson.

Johnson, who was in attendance, also left after the group dominated the first part of the sometimes contentious meeting with their questions for panelists, including the Charlottesville police chief, the state’s secretary of public safety, which oversees state alcohol control agents, and UVA police. An overflow room contained more attendees.

The meeting came one day after the Johnson’s roommate spoke out on his behalf. Johnson, a third-year student, was bloodied during an arrest near the campus Wednesday after he was approached by state alcohol control agents near a bar. The roommate told ABC News he believes the use of force was likely race-related, and that his friend was using his actual ID while trying to enter a bar on the night of the incident.

“There is nothing he could’ve said or done that could provoke an officer of the law to assault him in such a manner,” Joshua Kinlaw told ABC News. Johnson was charged with resisting arrest, obstructing justice without threats of force, and profane swearing or intoxication in public.

“I am aware that Martese does not own a fake ID,” Kinlaw said. “So the ID that he actually showed to both the bouncer and to the ABC [Alcoholic Beverage Control] officers was his real ID. Now because the age on that ID shows him to be 20 years old, I think that’s when dispute and discrepancies came in,” Kinlaw said.

As for Johnson, he said Thursday through his lawyer that he was “shocked that my face was slammed into the brick pavement three blocks from where I attend school,” as his attorney vowed to fight the charges. He was arrested early Wednesday morning outside the Charlottesville bar by state Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) agents who are charged with enforcing alcohol laws in Virginia.

“I trust that the scars on my face and head will heal but the trauma from what the ABC officers did will stay with me forever,” Johnson, a third-year student, said through his attorney, Daniel Watkins.

Friday’s on-campus meeting, set up by the student council and local and state officials, was titled “A Conversation with Law Enforcement.” Members of the black community at UVA said they were angry that they were excluded from the planning of the event by the student council. A group of black students quickly dominated the first part of this event with their questions.

Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy Longo acknowledged this has been a hard year for everyone in the university community, noting that the school has been put on the national stage three times in the last seven months. “What happened this past week has shaken your trust. It is my responsibility as the police chief to regain your trust. I commit to you today to do that,” Longo said.

But often when he and other speakers were asked a question, students standing in the aisle said together: “Answer the question we asked” with their fists in the air.

The student protesters brought up an incident that happened Wednesday evening, where a University of Virginia police officer allegedly arrested a student in a chokehold. Captain Mike Coleman with the UVA PD said that situation is currently under review.

About 100 of the student protesters walked out of the meeting chanting, “Black lives matter.” The meeting continued for about 40 minutes afterwards, though most people had already left.

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Former FBI Agent Charged in Theft of Heroin Evidence

Photodisc/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — A former FBI agent has been charged with obstruction of justice, falsifying records and drug possession, the Department of Justice announced Friday.

Matthew Lowry, 33, had been assigned to the FBI’s Washington, D.C. Field Office and was a member of the Cross-Border Task Force, a DOJ press release says. As a member of that task force, Lowry participated in numerous seizures of narcotics, and in 2013 and 2014, the DOJ alleges that he tampered with heroin evidence seized during multiple of his investigations.

In multiple instances, the DOJ says, Lowry “went to the [Washington, D.C. Field Office]’s Evidence Control Center and removed seized heroin from evidence, writing on a chain of custody record a false explanation for his taking of the evidence.” Further, the department accused Lowry of keeping the drugs in his car and using the heroin over a period of weeks or months before returning it — cut with either the supplement Creatine or the laxitive Purelax to account for the weight discrepancy.

Lowry is also accused of improperly keeping and using heroin following undercover, controlled purchases of the drug from targets in his investigations. After cutting the drug with Creatine or Purelax to account for the weight, he had other agents sign as a witnessing official and falsely noted that the evidence bags were sealed the day of the seizure.

In one undercover heroin purchase, Lowry is accused of simply never turning in the evidence and ingesting the heroin.

If convicted, Lowry could face up to 87 months in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of up to $16 million.

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Driver in Las Vegas ‘Road Rage’ Incident Indicted

The Meyers Family(LAS VEGAS) — A grand jury indicted a second man — the driver — in connection with the road rage incident that left a Las Vegas woman dead earlier this year.

Erich Nowsch, the shooter, had previously been indicted for the murder of Tammy Meyers, but court documents on Friday listed Derrick Andrews as a co-defendant, charged with conspiracy to commit murder, murder with the use of a deadly weapon, attempted murder with the use of a deadly weapon and discharge of a firearm from or within a structure of vehicle.

Andrews’ name had not previously been made public. It is not clear how police were able to identify him as the driver.

Police say Nowsch told friends he felt threatened as he watched Meyers and her teenage daughter take part in a driving lesson. He allegedly got in a vehicle with Andrews and followed Meyers and her daughter, with the driver accused of cutting them off and saying “I’m gonna come back for you and your daughter.”

Police say Meyers went home and picked up her son Brandon, who was armed with a gun, and went to find the driver. As they approached the vehicle, Nowsch allegedly opened fire.

Tammy and Brandon Meyers then retreated back to their home, where Nowsch allegedly opened fire again, fatally shooting Tammy Meyers. She died at a hospital two days later.

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Penn State President Says Fraternity System May Need to Be Re-Evaluated in Wake of Scandal

Hemera/Thinkstock(STATE COLLEGE, Pa.) — Penn State University President Eric Barron said Friday that the entire fraternity system could be re-evaluated after one organization was suspended and placed under investigation this month for allegedly posting nude or partially clothed photographs of women who are either sleeping or unconscious on private “members-only” Facebook pages.

In a message to the Penn State community sent Friday, Barron writes that the evidence — which is still being gathered — is “appalling, offensive and inconsistent with our community’s values.” While no suspects have been named, the Kappa Delta Rho fraternity was suspended for one year by its national chapter and is under further investigation.

Barron notes that in addition to a police investigation, the school is also undertaking a student conduct inquiry into the allegations.

“Our university is deeply committed to doing all it can to eliminate sexual misconduct and sustain a civil climate on our campuses,” Barron writes. “We will see this process through. I pledge that everything within our power will be done to hold those responsible accountable for their actions and to assist anyone who has been victimized by these shameful acts.”

Barron says that the school and the Kappa Delta Rho national chapter are working to determine whether the frat will have a presence at Penn State, and what conditions would be required for that to happen. “It also brings us to a point where we must ask if a re-evaluation of the fraternity system is required,” Barron says, noting that some in the university’s leadership believe that such a re-evaluation is necessary.

“When individual members deviate from the positive goals they can pursue, they not only tarnish the reputation of their brothers, but also the University community,”Barron said. “They also may cause a great deal of harm to themselves and others.”

On Friday afternoon, students rallied at the school’s Old Main administrative building in support of those who were victimized by the alleged Facebook pages.

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Three Police Officers Fired, Another Resigns After Racist Videos, Text Messages Discovered

iStock/Thinkstock(FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla.) — Three police officers have been fired and another resigned after a series of racist text messages and videos were uncovered at the Fort Lauderdale Police Department.

Mayor Jack Seiler said he was “disappointed, disgusted and shocked” by the incident. Among the findings of an investigation were a video in which one officer mocks President Obama and other African Americans. The video contains racial slurs.

Three other officers were caught sending racist text messages.

An investigation was launched in October 2014 after officials received a tip about racist text messages being sent between officers. The tip was brought to the FLPD by the ex-fiance of one of the officers.

The fired officers were identified on Friday as Jason Holding, 31, James Wells, 30, and Christopher Souza, 25. A fourth officer, Alex Alvarez, resigned in January during the investigation. Alvarez was responsible for the racist video.

The city of Fort Lauderdale now intends to mandate diversity and tolerance training.

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Watchdog Says Felon Was Allowed Through Expedited Airport Screening

Creatas/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General announced in a report that a convicted felon was recently permitted to travel through the Transportation Security Administration’s expedited screening program.

The DHS OIG says that the passenger was provided with a Pre-Check indicator and barcode on a boarding pass. Upon checking the traveler’s identification and boarding pass, a TSA agent recognized the felon and alerted a supervisor. However, the DHS OIG says, the supervisor instructed the agent to take no action and let the felon travel through the expedited screening lane.

The traveler had not applied for the expedited screening, but that the TSA had granted it “through risk assessment rules in the Secure Flight program.”

The DHS OIG made multiple recommendations to the TSA and issued a classified report concerning the need to modify its expedited screening program’s vetting and screening processes, it said in a press release. “Mitigating and reducing passenger screening vulnerabilities is important to our nation’s aviation security,” Inspector General John Roth said. “Incidents like this highlight the need for TSA to modify their Pre-Check procedures.”

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Boston Woman Finally Frees Snow-Bound Car After Two Months

File photo. iStock/Thinkstock(BOSTON) — For Boston resident Jillian Tenen, this year’s record-shattering winter proved too much for her 2007 Honda Civic.

Tenen’s car became buried on a street corner in her Bay Village neighborhood after the first big snowfall in late January — and remained there as more snow fell, and the plows kept plowing. Boston set a record this winter for the most snow ever.

After nearly seven weeks, and more than 100 inches of snow as well as subzero temperatures, Tenen finally managed to free the vehicle from its icy cocoon, but the damage was done.

The windshield of her sedan cracked and nearly collapsed because of the heavy snow and ice. And the growing snow mounds pushed by the ubiquitous plows caused dents and scratches to her passenger door and hood.

Tenen told ABC News in a phone interview she tried digging her car out nearly a dozen times throughout the past two months, but the never-ending snowfall and icy conditions made it impossible to chip through the cement-like ice.

“It just kept freezing and refreezing,” Tenen said.

She called the city and her insurance company for help, but nobody was able to assist her until the snow began melting away because there was nowhere else to move it to.

Tenen luckily works at the nearby Westin Copley Place Hotel, and was able to walk to work for the past two months. She said she wouldn’t have known what to do if she had to drive to work.

After living in Florida for eight years, Tenen moved to Boston in 2013, and said this winter has been the worst she’s ever seen.

When asked if she’ll continue parking in the street throughout the winter months, Tenen said she most likely will, unless a blizzard is in the forecast.

“I’m gonna play it by ear and see how it goes,” she said.

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Boston Marathon Bombing Trial: Timeline of Events That Lead to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s Capture

FBI(BOSTON) — The start of the trial was about the crime. By the end of this week, federal prosecutors had established a timeline of incredible events that led to alleged Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s capture.

Prosecutors said authorities confronted Tsarnaev and his brother. That confrontation was followed by an eight-minute battle with police. Quiet, leafy Laurel Street in Watertown, Massachusetts, was left scarred by explosives.

“They’re throwing bombs at us. We need the bomb squad,” a Massachusetts state trooper recalled hearing over the radio before he heard “some type of explosive and saw smoke in the street lamps.”

A bomb made from the same kind of pressure cooker used at the marathon became embedded in the door of someone’s car. The lid landed in a kid’s hockey goal. Shrapnel was found up to a block away, authorities said.

The jury saw two undetonated pipe bombs that had been “full” of explosive powder and “lined with BBs.” A trooper called them improvised grenades.

A policeman testified that Tsarnaev tossed them over his head like a hook shot. His brother threw them like a baseball. James Floyd, who lived on the street, saw “a fuse being lit” and “two individuals firing.”

When Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s gun either emptied or jammed, he threw it at Sgt Jeff Pugliese. As he and other officers tried to handcuff the older brother, an eyewitness recalled “an engine roar.”

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev then took the wheel of a stolen SUV and “floored it,” the witness said. There was “a thud” and Tamerlan Tsarnaev was dragged 25 feet.

His blood that had pooled in the street was evident in a photograph. The younger brother got away, but he didn’t get far.

Watertown, Boston and surrounding communities shut down during the manhunt. It kept David Henneberry indoors. He had wanted to check on his boat in the backyard after he noticed the shrink wrap had come loose. He said he ventured out when the restrictions lifted and noticed blood.

“Not a lot, but enough” he said.

Then he saw the motionless figure lying on the deck. Jurors were brought to a secret location near the courthouse this week to view the boat. A forklift elevated them two by two so they could peer inside. All the bullet holes were apparent. They strained to see Tsarnaev’s writing, which has faded. So have the streaks of blood that obscure the words.

Tsarnaev carved part of his note into wooden slats: “Stop killing our innocent civilians,” the jagged words read, “and we will stop.”

When Stephan Silva saw images of the friend he met in the eighth grade, he posted on Facebook “must have been his brother that got him into it.”

That statement gave the defense an opening. Silva recalled Tsarnaev telling him, “You don’t want to meet my brother. He said his brother was very strict, very opinionated” and wouldn’t have approved of Silva because he wasn’t Muslim.

It may have bolstered the defense argument Tsarnaev merely followed a trail blazed by his self-radicalized older brother, but Silva also testified Tsarnaev sought out a gun two months before the marathon attack and “kept coming up with excuses” for refusing to give it back.

But prosecutors tried to undercut the defense by showing jurors what the FBI found on Tsarnaev’s laptop, desktop, thumb drives and iPods. They highlighted audio clips from radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki and issues of al Qaeda’s online magazine Inspire.

The defense will argue there’s no proof Dzhokhar Tsarnaev downloaded those things when testimony resumes next week.

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