LOS ANGELES – A former UCLA lecturer who allegedly made threats against students and faculty — prompting a one-day halt to in-person instruction on the Westwood campus — pleaded not guilty Wednesday to federal charges.
An attorney for Matthew C. Harris, 31, entered the plea in Denver federal court, and did not object when the judge ordered his client to remain in custody pending trial, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The arraignment took place one day after Harris was indicted on four federal counts, including sending threatening communication by email, illegally attempting to purchase firearms, and possessing ammunition even though he was not legally allowed to have it due to his prior mental health history.
Court documents show that in June, a three-year temporary restraining order was granted in Los Angeles County, barring Harris from area college campuses and from possessing weapons and ammo. Documents state that Harris was committed for about a month to a psychiatric facility last April.
Harris, a former postdoctoral fellow, is accused of transmitting threats across state lines. Harris allegedly posted video online and sent an 800-page manifesto — making specific threats to people in UCLA’s philosophy department via email, resulting in the school’s decision to cancel in-person classes on Feb. 1. Harris was arrested the same day in Boulder, Colorado.
He had lectured in UCLA’s philosophy department until being put on “investigatory leave” last year.
Following the threats, UCLA Chancellor Gene Block called for the creation of a task force to conduct a comprehensive review of the university’s emergency protocols for potential threats. The announcement came after some students lashed out at UCLA for its handling of the situation — suggesting the university should have issued an alert about possible danger sooner.