This is an archival story that predates current editorial management.
This archival content was written, edited, and published prior to LAist's acquisition by its current owner, Southern California Public Radio ("SCPR"). Content, such as language choice and subject matter, in archival articles therefore may not align with SCPR's current editorial standards. To learn more about those standards and why we make this distinction, please click here.
Architect Accused Of Cutting Corners Sentenced To Jail In Death Of Firefighter
A German architect was sentenced today for the death of an L.A. firefighter in the Hollywood Hills mansion the architect built and lived in.
Gerhard Becker, 48, pleaded no contest to involuntary manslaughter involving the death of 61-year-old veteran firefighter Glenn Allen, according to CBS Los Angeles. Becker was sentenced to one year in county jail and three years probation.
The head legal counsel at the American Institute of Architects told LA Weekly in March that if Becker was found guilty, he would be the first architect in at least 20 years to be sentenced for manslaughter.
The Hollywood Hills home was slated to
host a photoshoot house the cast members of reality TV show Germany's Next Top Model, but had caught fire before the show was filmed, Curbed LA reported. The architect was accused of cutting corners and doing a shoddy job at building the home that went ablaze on Feb. 16, 2011.
Authorities alleged that the fireplace Becker installed on the third story of the home was only meant for outside use. Becker and his girlfriend, who had just moved in the home a few days before, woke up when the fireplace caught on fire and spread through the home and a sprinkler pipe melted. Allen died after water flooded the ceiling and collapsed on him when he was fighting the fire, according to L.A. Daily News and The Los Angeles Times. Several other firefighters were injured as well.
Becker, who was accused of gross negligence, argued that he didn't cut corners on building the home. LA Weekly reported:
"I wanted to do a very stable, a very good house," he says. "It just doesn't make sense to say I was trying to save money on a fireplace, when I am spending money on something nobody sees. Why should I do that if I'm trying to cheat on the code?"
He later sold the house for $7.55 million and used the money to post his $2 million bail, The Los Angeles Times reported.
Family members and fellow firefighters had urged the Los Angeles County Superior Judge Robert Perry to give Becker the maximum sentence of four years in prison.
"We want to send a message, ‘Build stuff right and don’t cut corners,'" said Frank Lima, union president for United Firefighters of Los Angeles City told The Los Angeles Times.
Allen had been with the LAFD for nearly 40 years and was less than one year away from retirement.