A woman whose son is accused of setting dozens of fires in Hollywood, West Hollywood, Sherman Oaks, and the San Fernando Valley last New Year's weekend, and who herself is facing a host of fraud charges in Europe, refused to leave her cell Tuesday for a scheduled bond hearing in federal court.
Dorothee Burkhart, 53, is being held at the downtown Metropolitan Detention Center pending extradition back to her native Germany to face trial.
She was expected to be present in court at a motions hearing before U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson so defense attorney Michael Belter could argue for bond to be set in the case.
However, Burkhart refused "to leave her jail cell and appear in court," Wilson told attorneys.
Belter told the judge that Burkhart had directed him to "abandon" the hearing, although he said he would submit papers.
Burkhart's 25-year-old son faces trial on dozens of arson-related charges stemming from the series of fires that terrorized Los Angeles over four nights at the start of the year.
A federal judge granted Germany's request for Burkhart's extradition, but her attorney is arguing that the extradition request is not supported by competent evidence; that she is needed as a material witness in the arson case pending against her son; and that her return to Germany would result in persecution and her physical harm by "powerful right-wing extremists."
In court today, Wilson asked Belter about Burkhart's fear of "torture" at the hands of German officials if she is sent back to her homeland.
Belter said his client "has a rather colorful past" and a "rather interesting perspective" on her case, believing that she would be "persecuted" in Germany "by right-wing Nazi elements of the government."
Burkhart believes that "she was going to have her body harvested by these elements," Belter told the court.
Those claims were also raised a few years ago during Burkhart's failed attempt to gain political asylum in Canada, before she and her son illegally entered the United States.
Attorneys for Burkhart again made reference to her fear of "torture" in Germany before U.S. Magistrate Judge Charles F. Eick earlier this year. He rejected the argument and approved Burkhart's extradition in May.
When asked by Wilson if the court should take such allegations seriously, Belter responded that "we would not be able to support such a claim."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Cathy Ostiller has said that if the woman fought extradition on all fronts, it could be as much as two years before she is put on a plane to Frankfurt.
Burkhart can also appeal to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to suspend her return to Germany.
Dorothee Burkhart describes herself as the sole link between her "autistic, mentally ill" son, Harry, and the outside world."
Her arrest pending extradition is thought to have sparked the arson rampage allegedly committed by her only child.
The woman is accused in Frankfurt of subletting apartments that she did not own, failing to pay rent and security deposits on other locations, and defrauding a cosmetic surgeon out of about $10,000 for breast augmentation surgery for which she never paid, according to court papers.
A trial date has not been set for Harry Burkhart, who faces 100 felony charges related to 49 blazes set between Dec. 30 and Jan. 2. Most of the fires began in automobiles but often spread to homes in Hollywood, West Hollywood, Sherman Oaks and surrounding areas.
His bail has been set at $7.5 million.