Ex-lecturer held without bail over alleged threats to UCLA
A federal judge on Thursday ordered a former lecturer at the University of California, Los Angeles, to be held without bail in Denver after he allegedly threatened violence against the prominent school in online videos and an 800-page document sent via email earlier this week.
Matthew Harris, 31, was taken into custody Tuesday in Colorado. He had lectured in the university’s philosophy department until being put on “investigatory leave” last year.
Harris appeared in federal court in Denver to be advised of his rights Thursday. Dressed in a black shirt, black shorts with his arms handcuffed and his ankles shackled, he appeared to look down or have his eyes closed as the magistrate judge asked him a series of questions.
He did not turn to look at Magistrate Judge S. Kato Crews and answered “yes” flatly to each question about his rights and whether he understood the proceedings.
He did not enter a plea Thursday. He is scheduled to return to court on Tuesday for a detention and preliminary hearing.
Harris’ federal public defender, Mary Butterton, could not be immediately reached for comment.
The emails prompted UCLA to hold classes remotely Tuesday; they had just returned to in-person teaching the day before. The university has more than 31,000 undergraduate students and 14,000 graduate students.
While university officials have not described the emails, Los Angeles Police Department Chief Michel Moore said Tuesday that Harris was “potentially planning for a mass violence or shooting event at UCLA.”
In March, the university placed Harris on investigatory leave for “predatory behavior” when the school had found he sent pornographic and violent content to students, court documents state.
Less than two months later, University of California regents sought — and were later granted — a restraining order against Harris after he allegedly sent threatening messages saying he would “hunt” and kill a professor at the University of California, Irvine, court documents show.
In November, Colorado authorities say he attempted to buy a handgun there but his purchase was denied as part of a California judge’s order prohibiting him from purchasing and possessing a firearm.
Harris, who didn’t appear to have any criminal record, began working at UCLA in the spring of 2019 as a postdoctoral fellow, according to a newsletter from the university’s philosophy department. His focus was on “philosophy of race, personal identity, and related issues in philosophy of mind.”
He completed his Ph.D. at Duke University in North Carolina in 2019, where he briefly met the woman who would later be the protected party in the restraining order.
Dazio reported from Los Angeles.