Trial begins for German National charged in three-night arson spree

A jury is scheduled to hear opening statements Monday in the trial of a German national accused of going on a three-night arson spree and setting more than 40 fires in Hollywood, West Hollywood and the San Fernando Valley.
 
Harry Burkhart, 29, was charged in 2012 with the series of fires, and then indicted last year on 25 counts of arson of property, 19 counts of arson of an inhabited dwelling, two counts each of possession of an incendiary device
and attempted arson and one count of arson of a structure.
 
Burkhart, who was born in Chechnya, is accused of placing incendiary devices under the front of vehicles on Dec. 30 and Dec. 31, 2011, and Jan. 2, 2012, and lighting the devices before driving away. On 19 occasions, the fires spread from the cars to adjacent inhabited dwellings.
 
At a hearing last week, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge George G. Lomeli ruled that jurors will also be allowed to hear about four other fires in which Burkhart is suspected but has not been charged.
 
Investigators believe Burkhart acted out of rage against Americans after his Russian-born mother, Dorothee, was ordered to be extradited to Germany.
 
According to a court declaration prepared by a sheriff's investigator, Burkhart became enraged during his mother's deportation hearing, shouting things such as "(expletive) all Americans," and had to be escorted out of the
courtroom by U.S. marshals.
 
When images of "a person of interest" were released in connection with the arson fires, a federal law enforcement officer who had witnessed the outburst recognized Burkhart and gave local authorities his name, according to
the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.
 
He was arrested Jan. 2, 2012, at Sunset Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue by a reserve sheriff's deputy who spotted his minivan.
 
Investigators allegedly found incendiary devices that matched those used to light the fires when they searched Burkhart's vehicle.
 
Burkhart has pleaded both not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity. If he is convicted, jurors will be asked to determine if he was sane at the time of the crimes.
 
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