The Los Angeles Criminal Law Blog

Hollywood Mansion Owner Guilty of Manslaughter for Death Trap?

The owner of an $11 million Hollywood Hills mansion was charged with involuntary manslaughter in connection with the death of a firefighter who was battling a blaze in the home, reports the Los Angeles Times.

Gerhard Albert Becker was charged on Wednesday for knowingly ignoring safety recommendations and altering the home after inspections. In particular, Becker's addition of several fireplaces, one of which was described as a "fire trough," is under scrutiny.

"This man built an 18-foot fire trough designed for outdoors inside the home," Deputy District Attorney Sean Carney told the Times. "It was a recipe for disaster. He essentially put this fireplace on 2-by-4s."

In total, there were four outdoor fireplaces built inside the home, which is a violation of city building codes. In his defense, Becker reportedly considered them as "architectural features or decorations" rather than fireplaces, according to court records.

Authorities believe one of the hazardous fireplaces on the third floor was the cause of the deadly 2011 February fire that killed veteran firefighter Glen Allen. Allen was one of 80 firefighters that responded to the home.

Involuntary manslaughter is typically considered to be the least severe of the potential homicide charges available to prosecutors. Involuntary manslaughter applies to an unlawful killing that is done without malice or intent to kill. The maximum prison sentence for involuntary manslaughter is four years.

If convicted of involuntary manslaughter, Gerhard Albert Becker's "triumph to modern architecture" that was supposed to be the location of "Germany's Next Top Model" may be his ticket to the slammer.

For more information on the crime of involuntary manslaughter, see our Related Resources section.

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