More charges filed in Los Angeles arsons case

AP News
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Posted: Jan 24, 2012 7:31 PM
More charges filed in Los Angeles arsons case

A German man pleaded not guilty Tuesday to additional charges accusing him of setting nearly 50 fires, mostly to parked cars, which terrorized parts of Los Angeles over the New Year's weekend.

Deputy Public Defender Gustavo Sztraicher entered the plea in Superior Court on behalf of Harry Burkhart, who spoke only to identify himself and acknowledge that he understood the legal process.

Bail was set at $7.5 million, and Burkhart was scheduled to return to court March 1.

Outside court, Sztraicher had no comment.

Earlier in the day, the criminal complaint against Burkhart was amended to include a total of 100 arson-related counts involving 49 fires in Hollywood, West Hollywood and the San Fernando Valley. If convicted, the 24-year-old faces more than 80 years in state prison.

The rash of fires left residents on edge between Dec. 30 and Jan. 2 as parked cars were torched during the night. Some of the fires spread to carports and nearby buildings, including a former home of Doors singer Jim Morrison, and rousted people from their beds. Another one of the blazes was at the Hollywood and Highland entertainment complex, a popular tourist destination bordered by the Walk of Fame.

The complaint alleged the arson was caused by the use of a device designed to accelerate the fire. Court documents revealed an incendiary device was placed under the engine area of cars.

There were no serious injuries or deaths as a result of the fires, but damages were estimated to be more than $3 million. No other suspicious vehicle fires have occurred since Burkhart's arrest Jan. 3.

Prosecutors initially said Burkhart was likely responsible for 52 fires but opted to file charges in 49 of them. Deputy District Attorney Sean Carney said his office doesn't anticipate filing any additional counts.

Authorities believe Burkhart was angry over his mother's legal troubles. Dorothee Burkhart is wanted in Germany on 19 counts of fraud and awaiting extradition. She's scheduled to appear in a Los Angeles courtroom Wednesday.

Burkhart was charged with 37 counts earlier this month. Among the charges Burkhart faces are arson of property and possession of flammable material.