Accused L.A. arsonist to face 63 more counts: prosecutors

LOS ANGELES Tue Jan 24, 2012 5:01pm EST

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A German national accused of setting dozens of fires across Los Angeles over the New Year's weekend out of what investigators described as anti-American rage will be charged on Tuesday with another 63 criminal counts, prosecutors said.

Harry Burkhart already faces 37 counts of arson in connection with the three-day wave of fires that caused an estimated $3 million in damage and left residents of Los Angeles and surrounding communities on edge.

Prosecutors will file the additional charges ahead of a court appearance scheduled for Burkhart, 24, later on Tuesday, Los Angeles County District Attorney's spokesman Jane Robison said.

During an initial court appearance earlier this month a judge ordered Burkhart, a native of Chechnya who holds German citizenship, held without bail.

A Los Angeles police arson investigator has said in court papers that he believes Burkhart harbors anger toward Americans.

"It is my opinion that the defendant's criminal spree was motivated by his rage against Americans and that by setting these fires (the) defendant intended to harm and terrorize as many residents of the city and county of Los Angeles as possible," arson investigator Edward Nordskog wrote in court documents filed earlier this month.

State prosecutors in Germany say Burkhart is also wanted there on suspicion of starting a fire that burned down his family's home in Neukirchen.

Burkhart's 53-year-old mother was arrested in Los Angeles in December on a provisional warrant issued by German authorities and was facing extradition.

Dorothee Burkhart, who has been living in a Los Angeles apartment with her son, faces multiple charges of fraud and embezzlement in Germany, according to court documents.

Harry Burkhart was taken into custody after a tip from a member of the U.S. State Department's Diplomatic Security field office who recognized him on surveillance videotape from an outburst during his mother's initial court hearing, a state department spokeswoman said.

According to the declaration filed by Nordskog, Harry Burkhart was ejected from the courtroom during December 29 extradition proceedings for his mother after angrily shouting a profanity against Americans.

A man resembling Burkhart was captured on security cameras leaving the scene of several of the fires, which caused no fatalities. One firefighter was injured and another person suffered from smoke inhalation.

One of the fires damaged a house in the Hollywood Hills where late rocker Jim Morrison was inspired to write the 1968 song "Love Street" about his girlfriend.

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb. Editing by Paul Thomasch)

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