Jury finds German man was sane when he set Los Angeles fires
LOS ANGELES (AP) — A German man who set dozens of fires across Los Angeles during several nights of terror six years ago to avenge his mother’s deportation was sane at the time, a jury decided Monday.
Harry Burkhart, 30, was previously found guilty of nearly 50 arson counts for fires he set around New Year’s 2012.
Burkhart made good on threats to “roast America” following his mother’s extradition to Germany on fraud charges, prosecutors said.
He placed fire-starting devices under cars in Hollywood, the San Fernando Valley and West Hollywood on three different nights, authorities said. Some vehicles were in carports and in 19 cases the fires spread to homes and apartments.
No one was seriously injured during the fires that caused an estimated $3 million in damage, but the blazes ignited widespread fear.
A surveillance video captured an image of the suspect and a deputy U.S. marshal recognized Burkhart as a man who had made an anti-American outburst during his mother’s 2011 detention hearing.
He was arrested after a volunteer sheriff’s deputy pulled over a van that matched the description of the vehicle the suspected arsonist was seen driving.
Defense attorney Steve Schoenfield argued that Burkhart was seriously mentally ill and asked jurors to find him insane. He said medical records from doctors in Germany, where Burkhart had lived in Frankfurt, had documented mental illness symptoms over many years.
Schoenfield said Burkhart believed his separation from his mother meant the world was coming to an end.
Burkhart was convicted of the arsons in September 2016, but the jury couldn’t reach a verdict during the sanity phase of the trial.
Burkhart could face up to almost 90 years in prison when he is sentenced March 23.