L.A. arson suspect's mother claims Nazi persecution
In an extradition hearing last week, the mother of suspected serial arsonist Harry Burkhart told a federal judge that she and her son faced persecution from fascist Nazis in Germany and would be killed upon return, according to an audio recording of the proceeding.
“If you return us to the Germany we will be the terminate, we will be killed,” Dorothee Burkhart said in halting English on Dec. 29.
Burkhart appeared before Magistrate Judge Margaret Nagle after she was arrested on a provisional arrest warrant from Germany, where she is wanted on 19 charges of fraud and embezzlement. Before the hearing began, Harry Burkhart went into an anti-American tirade in the audience and was escorted out of the courthouse by U.S. Marshals.
That evening, authorities allege, Burkhart launched on a spree of arson fires and set 52 blazes in Hollywood, West Hollywood and Sherman Oaks, triggered by his mother’s arrest and motivated by rage against Americans. He was charged Wednesday with 37 counts of arson.
At last week’s proceeding, Burkhart repeatedly asked for her son, saying he was mentally ill and that she needed to speak to him. Nagle said from the bench that “there was an issue with his refusal to remain quiet and orderly in the court so he’s not here.”
After Dorothee Burkhart refused to be represented by a public defender, Nagle tried to delay a hearing on whether she could be released on bail pending extradition to give her time to find her own attorney. Yet the woman continued to plead with the judge saying she should not be extradited, and calling the German charges against her bogus.
“Everything is lie,” she told the judge, who repeatedly explained to her that was not the purpose of the hearing. “I ask you to please listen to me because it’s about my and my son’s dead or life. I and my son we are persecuted from fascist Nazi organization in Germany more than 10 years and we tried to escape them but we are not able to fight against them.”
“I and my son, we will ask for asylum in United States because if we were returned to Germany, we will be killed,” she said.
Dorothee Burkhart said her primary concern in being sent back to Germany was being taken away from her son.
“The first concern is to be separated from my son, he can exist only with me, together,” she said.
“How old is he?” the judge asked.
“He’s 25 and he is mental ill, and he’s like a small child,” the woman responded.
Dorothee Burkhart again appeared before Nagle Tuesday, when she demanded to see her son, apparently unaware that he was in custody. Her hearing was again pushed back to allow her more time to hire an attorney. She is expected in court Friday afternoon.
-- Victoria Kim
Photo: A sketch of Dorothee Burkhart in federal court in Los Angeles. Credit: Bill Robles / Associated Press