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Arson suspect's mother ordered extradited to Germany

May 24, 2012 | 12:33 pm

Dorothee BurkhartThe mother of suspected serial arsonist Harry Burkhart, whose arrest on German fraud charges allegedly triggered her son’s arson rampage, has been ordered extradited to her home country. 

Magistrate Charles F. Eick ordered the extradition of Dorothee Burkhart over an objection from her son’s defense attorney, who told the court the mother was a vital witness to his client’s criminal case.

Harry Burkhart faces 100 felony charges in state court relating to 49 fires set from Dec 30 to Jan 2. 

The older Burkhart, according to her German attorney, escaped from a Frankfurt prison in 2007 by squeezing through the window of a cardiac clinic where she was taken after complaining of chest pains. She faces charges there of skipping out on a €7,680 -– about $9,660 -– payment for her breast augmentation surgery, as well as cheating a number of people of smaller sums by posing as a landlady or a renter. 

MAP: Southland arsons from Dec. 29 to Jan. 2

Eick said evidence from German prosecutors was sufficient to qualify Dorothee Burkhart for extradition based on a treaty between the two countries, and that there was sufficient proof of her criminal intent despite her assertion that the cases were a civil matter. 

In his order dated Wednesday, Eick wrote that it was outside the court’s authority to consider the effect the woman’s extradition may have on her son’s case. That decision is up to the secretary of state, the judge said. 

The judge also remarked Dorothee Burkhart’s occasional outbursts in court were not because she lacked mental competence, but because she was defying the court or pretending. She has frequently launched into speeches to the judge or the media in the audience, claiming she and her son were victims of Nazi persecution and that they will be tortured and killed if returned to Germany. 

“The occasional inappropriateness of Ms. Burkhart’s comments and conduct did not result from any lack of understanding or lack of ability; the inappropriateness resulted from contumacy or deliberate feigning,” the judge wrote. “… In actuality, she was at all times well aware of the nature of the proceeding and she was always capable of assisting in her own defense.” 

As for her claims of what will happen if she is sent back to Germany, the judge wrote, they are “simply not credible.”

A spokesman for the U.S. attorney in Los Angeles said there is no specified date set for when the older Burkhart will be handed off to German authorities.


Arson suspect took a twisted path to Los Angeles

L.A. arson suspect's mother claims Nazi persecution

Arson suspect's mother may have entered U.S. illegally, feds say

-- Victoria Kim

Image: Courtroom sketch of Dorothee Burkhart in Los Angeles. Credit: Bill Robles / Associated Press