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Accused Hollywood Arsonist Appears Ill In Court

LOS ANGELES (CBS) — Suspected Hollywood firebug Harry Burkhart, 24, appeared in a Los Angeles court Wednesday to answer 37 charges in a string of fires set in Hollywood, West Hollywood, and surrounding areas.

Burkhart, who used a German interpreter, appeared ill after entering the courtroom. He was twitching and leaning his head back, requiring the assistance of three deputies to stand and, even, hold his head up. The judge ordered photographers present to not take his picture.

It was reported earlier Wednesday that Burkhart was under suicide watch.

The accused fire starter faces 28 counts of arson of property and nine counts of arson of an inhabited structure.

Prosecutor Sean Carney charged that Burkhart engaged "in what essentially amounts to a campaign of terror in this community."

Carney said Burkhart is believed to have set "upwards of 52 arson fires."

Burkhart's alleged fire spree began around midnight on Dec. 30. He was taken into custody on Jan. 2 after officials circulated images obtained from surveillance camera footage.

"The people believe that the defendant engaged in this conduct because he has a hatred for Americans," Carney told the judge.

The district attorney's office says the fires began the evening after Burkhart was forced from a courtroom upon becoming enraged during an extradition hearing for his mother.

Harry Burkhart Arraignment
(credit: CBS)

Court papers show investigators discovered newspaper articles about the local fires during a search of Burkhart's Hollywood apartment. Searchers also found newspaper articles about similar fires in Germany.

Investigators also found bomb-making materials in Burkhart's van.

Burkhart is reportedly being investigated by German officials in the torching of his family residence on Oct. 14. He and his family filed an insurance claim that same day.

The judge Wednesday set Burkhart's bail at $2,850,000 and demanded seizure of his passport, which was already set to expire at the end of January.

"A lot of harm he did to the psyche of the citizens of these particular communities and all of Los Angeles County I think it merits a life term, L.A. District Attorney Steve Cooley.

Burkhart's arraignment was continued to Jan. 24.

Cooley said Burkhart will likely face additional charges. If convicted, he could face state prison time.

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