L.A.-area arson suspect waged a 'campaign of terror,' D.A. says
Hollywood arson suspect Harry Burkhart appeared Wednesday in Los Angeles County Superior Court looking agitated and unkempt to face 37 felony charges of torching cars and property across a broad swath of Los Angeles over the New Year's weekend.
Judge Upinder S. Kalra set bail at $2.85 million after prosecutors urged that Burkhart be denied any opportunity to be freed pending trial, citing investigators' reports that the Russian-born German national was "motivated by his rage against Americans."
Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley said: "A campaign of terror has ended and that was with the arrest of Harry Burkhart."
He said the manner in which the fires were set will be the "critical part of evidence in this case."
Cooley said possibly twice as many charges eventually could filed, and that Burkhart, if convicted, faces "an awful, awful lot of time in prison."
Because of the "amount of harm he did to the psyche in these communities," Cooley said he thought the crimes warranted a life sentence, calling the offenses "almost attempted murder."
Burkhart, 24, entered the courtroom in a green jail jumpsuit, with messy, shoulder-length brown hair. As the judge considered whether to allow cameras to cover his arraignment, Burkhart slumped and twitched. He eventually was propped up by three bailiffs as he leaned back with his mouth agape.
Kalra said he wouldn’t allow camera coverage showing Burkhart’s face because of witness identification issues in other charges that may be filed.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Sean Carney said his office had only brought half the charges that eventually may be filed as the investigation continues into as many as 52 suspected arson fires over the four-day rampage. Media were allowed to take pictures that didn't show Burkhart’s face.
Burkhart's arraignment was postponed until Jan. 24.
In arguing for denial of bail, Carney told the judge that Burkhart had yelled an expletive against Americans while attending a hearing last week on the German government's request for his mother's extradition to face fraud charges.
-- Victoria Kim and Richard Winton
Photo: Harry Burkhart being arrested Monday.
Credit: KTLA-TV Channel 5