Former UCLA lecturer accused of making violent threats ruled mentally unfit to stand trial
A former postdoctoral fellow at UCLA who was arrested nearly a year ago after allegedly threatening students and staff was found mentally unfit to stand trial last week by a judge in the U.S. District Court in Denver.
In a Jan. 27 court filing, Judge Raymond P. Moore wrote that counsel for defendant Matthew Harris filed a motion on Oct. 4 “for determination of Defendant’s competency to stand trial.”
An exam by a forensic psychiatrist found Harris “presently suffering from a mental disease or defect rendering him incompetent to proceed,” the judge wrote.
The filing states that mental incompetence left the defendant “unable to understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him or to assist properly in his defense.”
Harris, then 31, was arrested Feb. 1, 2022, and charged by federal prosecutors with making criminal threats across state lines after he sent an 803-page manifesto and a video referencing a mass shooting to students and faculty.
He threatened to kill a female professor, according to a court filing from May. His students had also noticed warning signs in the classroom and on the former lecturer’s YouTube channel.
Neighbors in Boulder, Colo., where Harris moved after being dismissed from UCLA and was ultimately arrested, and UCLA students have voiced frustrations about lack of warnings from law enforcement officials about Harris’ violent threats.
The document stipulates that Harris will be hospitalized and treated for mental illness to allow experts to determine whether his mental condition might improve enough for him to stand trial in the future.
The judge ordered a written report on Harris’ mental condition by May 27, or four months after the filing.