LA arson suspect pleads not guilty

Jan. 24, 2012 at 8:53 PM

LOS ANGELES, Jan. 24 (UPI) -- A German man pleaded not guilty Tuesday to 100 counts of arson-related charges for dozens of fires set in the Los Angeles area between Dec. 30 and Jan. 2.

Harry Burkhart, 24, could face more than 80 years in prison if found guilty of the charges, which include 75 counts of arson, 19 counts of arson of an inhabited dwelling, two counts of arson of an uninhabited dwelling, two counts of attempt to burn and two counts of possession of flammable materials, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Burkhart has been connected to 49 of the 51 fires that took place during the New Year's weekend in the Los Angeles area, officials said. Investigators said they connected the suspect to the fires through DNA evidence, as well as a photo of a device he threw out when he entered the German Consulate. Witnesses have also identified Burkhart as being near the scene of some of the fires.

LA police said Burkhart was motivated by the recent imprisonment of his mother, who was facing deportation, and federal immigration officials said they believe Burkhart's visa was due to expire Jan. 18.

Dorothee Burkhart, Harry's mother, told a judge her son is mentally ill.

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