A federal judge has ruled in favor of extraditing the mother of a man suspected of setting dozens of fires in Hollywood, West Hollywood and the San Fernando Valley over New Year's weekend, according to papers obtained today.
Dorothee Burkhart, 53, is wanted in her native Germany on a host of fraud charges.
After hearing arguments from both sides last week, U.S. Magistrate Judge Charles F. Eick determined the woman should be returned to Germany for trial.
Michael Belter, Burkhart's attorney, could not immediately be reached for comment.
Eick also denied a request by Harry Burkhart to suspend his mother's extradition to allow her to help in his defense in state court in the arson case.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Cathy Ostiller said last week that if the woman fought extradition on all fronts, it could be "a year or two" before she is put on a plane to Frankfurt, so she probably would be in custody in Los Angeles for her son's trial for at least a couple of years.
Were she to be returned to Germany before the trial, the woman could be brought back to testify for her son or she could do so in real time over satellite, the prosecutor said.
"We will ensure " Burkhart will be able to "testify one way or the other," Ostiller told Eick at last week's hearing.
Dorothee Burkhart described herself as the sole link between her "mentally ill" son, Harry, and "the outside world." Her 24-year-old son faces trial on dozens of arson-related charges stemming from the series of fires that terrorized Los Angeles over four nights at the start of the year.
Her arrest pending extradition is thought to have sparked the arson rampage allegedly committed by her distraught son, her only child.
Because of Harry's "extremely compromised mental state," the mother is needed to provide "historical data about his own life," Harry Burkhart's attorney, Gustavo N. Sztraicher, argued at the hearing.
Dorothee Burkhart "can fill those gaps," Sztraicher said.
He reminded the court that on Dec. 30, when the arson suspect's mother first appeared in federal court after her arrest as a wanted fugitive, her son went on an anti-American tirade in court. The arson fires began within hours.
"I think that shows how entwined these two cases are," Sztraicher said.
Dorothee Burkhart is accused in Frankfurt of subletting apartments that she did not own, failing to pay rent and security deposits on other locations, and defrauding a cosmetic surgeon out of about $10,000 for breast augmentation surgery for which she never paid, according to court papers.
It took about four months to extradite former TV producer Bruce Beresford-Redman to Mexico to face charges for the killing of his wife -- an unusually short length of time because Beresford-Redman did not appeal the judge's extradition order. Harry Burkhart faces 100 felony charges related to 49 blazes set between Dec. 30 and Jan. 2. Most of the fires began in automobiles but often spread to homes in Hollywood, West Hollywood, Sherman Oaks and surrounding areas.
His bail has been set at $7.5 million. A trial date has not been set.