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Hollywood arsonist 'hated America'

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Hollywood arsonist 'hated America'
Photo: DPA
07:01 CET+01:00
A German man launched a "binge" of over 50 arson attacks in southern California over the New Year holiday weekend, fired up by anti-American "hatred" fueled by his mother's fight against deportation to Germany, prosecutors have said.

In a brief court appearance during which he was shackled and had to be held up at points by law enforcement officers Wednesday, Harry Burkhart, 24, spoke only to confirm that he understood the charges against him – 37 counts of arson.

"The string of fires terrorized residents of Hollywood and the Westside. No deaths or serious injuries were reported, but property damage ... was in the millions of dollars," said District Attorney Steve Cooley.

Prosecutor Sean Carney told the court that Burkhart launched the arson spree on the night of December 29, hours after yelling foul-mouthed anti-American invective at an extradition court hearing for his mother Dorothee.

"This offender has engaged in … what essentially amounts to a campaign of terror against this community," told the court, adding that Burkhart "engaged in this conduct because he has a hatred for Americans."

Burkhart "was set off by the incarceration of his mother, with whom he appears to be quite close, and he had latent anti-American views," added Cooley. "That combination apparently set him off on this binge."

Burkhart, who is also wanted for alleged arson in Germany, was detained early Monday after a tip-off from the State Department, which was in contact with Berlin over his mother, wanted in German on fraud charges.

In all there were at least 52 deliberately-set fires in Hollywood and surrounding districts, causing millions of dollars in damage in the biggest arson spree since the 1992 LA riots.

No one was killed or seriously injured in the attacks, most of which targeted cars parked either outside homes or in car ports under apartment buildings.

Burkhart, who travels on a German passport, was staying with his mother in Hollywood at the time, a statement by Cooley's office said.

She is fighting extradition to Germany where she faces 19 charges including defrauding apartment tenants out of security checks, and failing to pay a bill of about $10,000 for breast-augmentation, according to court documents.

On Tuesday Dorothee Burkhart coincidentally told a judge that her son was mentally ill, as she appeared in court, apparently unaware that her son had been arrested over the arson.

"Where is he? Dead? ... Maybe the German Nazi knows our address," she said according to the LA Times newspaper, adding in broken English: "He is mental ill."

She has also been linked to a website offering the services of a licensed massage therapist. The site is registered in her name with the Hollywood address where she was living with her son, local media reported.

In Germany, prosecutors in the central city of Marburg said Wednesday that Harry Burkhart is also being investigated in his native country on charges of arson and fraud.

Authorities are looking into a fire that took place at a property in central Germany in October last year.

"When the fire was extinguished, there were indications of arson," said Annemarie Wied, the spokeswoman for the state prosecutor's office.

In Los Angeles, LA Superior Court Judge Upinder S. Kalra ordered Burkhart to remain jailed in lieu of $2.85 million bail and to surrender his passport, pending his next hearing on January 24.

AFP/mdm

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