Extradition hearing for mother of arson suspect postponed

A magistrate judge said she would appoint a federal public defender for Dorothee Burkhart.

Story highlights

  • Extradition hearing for Dorothee Burkhart continued until January 10
  • "I am not a criminal; we are under Nazi persecution," she says
  • "Sit down, this is not a sideshow," judge says
A federal judge continued Friday for a third time an extradition hearing for Dorothee Burkhart, the mother of Hollywood arson suspect Harry Burkhart.
Wearing a white jumpsuit, she entered courtroom shackled at the waist with chain cuffs on her hands and feet. She requested a new attorney, to which U.S. Magistrate Judge Margaret Nagle said she would appoint a federal public defender.
Burkhart, a 53-year-old German national who lived in Chechnya, declined offers of Russian and German interpreters and spoke instead in English tinged with an Eastern European accent.
During the hearing, she interrupted the court, saying she had been beaten in jail. She stood up, rolled up her left sleeve and pointed to what appeared to be a small bruise on her arm.
She called her son innocent of the arson charges.
"I am not a criminal; we are under Nazi persecution," she said.
"Sit down," Nagle said. "This is not a sideshow."
Burkhart said the documents and witnesses she needed for her defense on charges that include 19 counts of fraud were in Canada and Germany.
"The culprit is the Nazis," she said.
As court recessed, Burkhart faced reporters in the gallery and said, "My son is mentally ill; he has autism." She continued, "He didn't do anything. ... I ask you to help us."
Nagle set the next court appearance for Dorothee Burkhart for Tuesday.
Harry Burkhart, a 24-year-old German national, has been charged with 37 counts of arson in connection with 52 fires in Los Angeles. The charges are tied to fires at 12 locations in Hollywood, West Hollywood and Sherman Oaks.
A physician said Thursday that the younger Burkhart suffered from severe mental illness.
Dr. Blaga Stancheva, a family physician and specialist in obstetrics, said she treated mother and son in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 2010, when both were applying for refugee status in Canada. "I was asked to diagnose and treat Harry to support a claim explaining why he was unable to show up in a small-claims court case," Stancheva told CNN by phone. She declined to describe the case.
Stancheva said she and a team of other doctors -- including a psychiatrist -- diagnosed the younger Burkhart with "autism, severe anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and depression."
Citing doctor-patient confidentiality, she would not elaborate, nor would she identify the psychiatrist involved in the diagnosis.
Stancheva said the Canadian government denied the Burkharts' refugee applications and she has not seen him since March 2010.
"I was shocked and dismayed at what happened in Los Angeles, and it appears he was not being treated for his depression," she said.
Prosecutors said the son's "rage against Americans," triggered by his mother's arrest last week, motivated his "campaign of terror" with dozens of fires in Hollywood and nearby communities.
The arson spree began last Friday with a car fire in Hollywood that spread to apartments above a garage, and no new fires have happened since Burkhart was arrested Monday, Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley said.
No one was hurt in the fires, but property damage is likely to reach $3 million, authorities said.
Dorothee Burkhart was arrested a day before the fires started on an international arrest warrant issued by a district court in Frankfurt, Germany, said federal court spokesman Gunther Meilinger. She faces 16 counts of fraud and three counts of embezzlement, he said.
The charges include an allegation that she failed to pay for a breast enhancement operation performed on her in 2004, Meilinger said. Most of the German charges, however, stem from phony real estate deals that Dorothee Burkhart allegedly conducted between 2000 and 2006.
Both Burkharts are in a Los Angeles jail.