Architect Gerhard Becker pleaded no contest Friday to involuntary manslaughter in the 2011 death of Los Angeles city firefighter Glenn Allen, who died fighting a fire at Becker's home on Viewsite Drive in the Hollywood Hills. Becker received probation that includes a one-year jail sentence and is expected to serve about six months. Prosecutors wanted a four-year prison sentence for Becker, who is 49. The aggravating circumstances here are that Becker installed outdoor fire pits inside his home after telling city inspectors he would not. Shortly after Becker moved in, the house caught fire.
Allen, a 38-year veteran of the LAFD who was nearing retirement, died after the ceiling collapsed on him during the fire. Another 11 firefighters suffered injuries. Allen's death, marked by a big downtown funeral, outraged his colleagues in the fire department and pressure built for Becker's prosecution. He was arrested in 2012 when he arrived back at LAX from Spain.
Firefighters made plans to pack the courtroom at Becker's hearing today. "The District Attorney's Office is asking for the maximum term of four years in state prison," the department said on its news blog. "Belief that the court is leaning toward a more lenient sentence has brought frustration to many members of the Fire Service, and stirred strong sentiment in the community - especially among those who Glenn Allen proudly served."
* Update with LAFD statement:
The Los Angeles Fire Department believes that building codes and fire codes are written for public safety and for the safety of firefighters. Today's guilty verdict in the case of Gerhard Becker, should send a clear message and warning to those who try to circumvent those codes. The Los Angeles Fire Department appreciates the hard work of the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office, the Los Angeles Police Department, and the Los Angeles Fire Department's Arson Investigators who worked diligently to convict Gerhard Becker. The Los Angeles Fire Department is committed to the prosecution of those who willfully violate building and fire codes in the City of Los Angeles.
LA Weekly: Judge picks apart the prosecution's case