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Mother of accused L.A. arsonist says son was set up by Nazis

January 10, 2012 |  4:40 pm

The mother of suspected serial arsonist Harry Burkhart has been ordered detained pending a hearing on her extradition to Germany.

Federal Magistrate Margaret Nagle ruled that Dorothee Burkhart posed a potential danger to the community and was a flight risk, based on the charges from Germany and the fact that she has no local ties in Los Angeles.

Dorothee Burkhart, as she has at previous court appearances, repeatedly interrupted the judge and addressed the audience, claiming she and her son were innocent victims and that she would be killed if returned to Germany.

PHOTOS: Southland arsons

"Dangerous? I am dangerous?" she yelled in protest when Nagle summarized the U.S. attorney's argument for her detention. "Non rent payer for extradition? Is there no murders, no terrorists, no nothing?" she exclaimed at another point.

"You will have, as we say here in America, a day in court to address the elements of extradition," Nagle told her.

Burkhart faces 19 counts of fraud and other charges in Germany, including non-payment of fees for a breast augmentation surgery and cheating a number of renters and landlords out of payments. The German government has 40 days from the date of her arrest in late December to formally request extradition.

The woman's court-appointed indigent panel attorney, Michael Belter, did not argue against her detention Tuesday but may present arguments for her release on bail at a later time.

Before the proceedings began, Burkhart again proclaimed her innocence and her son's.

"My son didn't do this arson. He is not capable to do arson like this, so big, so horrible," she said, adding that he was set up by "a very well-organized criminal group of Nazis."

Outside court, Belter said he had been appointed Monday night and that he hadn't had an opportunity to study the case. He said that depending on the charges and showing of probable cause presented by Germany, "the court could make the decision not to extradite."

He also said her son's legal situation may become a factor in the case.

Harry Burkhart's public defender, Gustavo Sztraicher, who attended the hearing, said his client and his mother have had no contact with one another.

As she was being taken out of the courtroom, Dorothee Burkhart asked that anyone in the audience convey a message to her son.

"Tell him please, I love him very much and I will never leave him alone to die here," she said.

--Victoria Kim

Illustration: Dorothee Burkhart in court. Credit: Bill Robles / Associated Press