Judge approves Hollywood arson suspect's mom extradition

Story highlights

  • Dorothee Burkhart can ask Secretary of State Clinton to stop her extradition to Germany
  • She faces charges of fraud and embezzlement in Germany
  • Her son, Harry, allegedly set a string of fires that terrorized Los Angeles
  • Burkhart could be brought back or testify through video at her son's trial
A federal judge approved the extradition to Germany of the mother of a man suspected of setting dozens of fires in Los Angeles over the New Year holidays, the U.S. Attorney's office said Thursday.
Dorothee Burkhart, 53, won't be immediately sent to Germany, where she face charges of fraud and embezzlement, because the U.S. State Department has a two-month waiting period before issuing a surrender warrant.
Her son, Harry Burkhart, allegedly set a string of fires that terrorized the communities of Hollywood and West Hollywood in December and early January. The 24-year-old German national entered no guilty pleas on 100 felony counts in January.
Prosecutors say the spree of intentional blazes, which unnerved much of the city, was motivated by Burkhart's "rage against Americans" after his mother was arrested on an international arrest warrant. The fires began after police arrested his mother during a traffic stop December 28, authorities have said.
No one was hurt in the fires, but property damage costs are likely to reach $3 million, authorities said.
The mother had argued that she should be kept in the United States to testify at her son's upcoming trial, but U.S. Magistrate Judge Charle Eick said in his decision approving the extradition that she could be brought back or testify through video.
Burkhart said her son is autistic, mentally ill and unable to communicate with the outside world without her assistance.
Judge Eick also rejected her claim that she would be inhumanely treated, tortured or killed if she is extradited to Germany. That is a matter for the State Department to consider, not the court, the judge said.
Burkhart can ask Secretary of State Clinton to stay her return to Germany, the judge said.
She was the subject of an international arrest warrant issued by a district court in Frankfurt, Germany, said court spokesman Gunther Meilinger, and is wanted on 16 counts of fraud and three counts of embezzlement.