By Kathy Finn
NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - Robert Durst, a real estate scion accused of murder in Los Angeles, may be poised to plead guilty to a federal gun charge in New Orleans, potentially speeding his return to California to face charges in the death 15 years ago of a longtime friend, according to court documents.
Durst, 72, will enter a new plea on Dec. 17 to a six-month-old charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm, after a search of his New Orleans hotel room in March turned up a handgun, the judge handling that case confirmed to Reuters.
He initially pleaded not guilty to the charge, claiming the search was illegal, as his lawyers sought his extradition to Los Angeles, where prosecutors want him in connection with the 2000 killing of writer Susan Berman.
Durst, who made a fortune in real estate over several decades, has been held in a Louisiana jail since being arrested in March and faces a sentence of up to 10 years in prison on the firearm charge.
An HBO series that aired in February and March documented several police investigations of Durst, including ones of the dismemberment killing of a male neighbor in Texas in 2003 for which he was tried and acquitted of murder, and the 1982 disappearance in New York of his wife, Kathleen.
He was convicted in 2004 for jumping bail and carrying a weapon across state lines while fleeing authorities in Texas.
Durst's lawyer, Dick DeGuerin, did not confirm that his client would plead guilty to the gun charge but released a statement on Tuesday saying that he and his client are "eager" to prove Durst's innocence in Berman's death.
"We hope to resolve all other charges right away so that Bob can be transferred to California for trial," DeGuerin said.
The HBO documentary chronicled the case, with the final episode airing a day after Durst's March arrest at the hotel, where authorities said he registered under an assumed name with $42,000 in cash, a revolver and a latex mask.
In that episode, Durst was presented with evidence that his handwriting appeared to match that of Berman's likely killer. Durst's voice was captured on a microphone after the interview saying he "killed them all."
Durst has long been estranged from his family, known for its significant New York real estate holdings. Prosecutors say he is worth some $100 million.
(Editing by David Adams and Steve Orlofsky)