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Judge Enters Not Guilty Plea For UCLA Professor Charged In Fire

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(CBS) Ed Mertz
Ed Mertz has been at KFWB since March of 2000 and began reporting for...
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LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — A chemistry professor charged in a deadly laboratory fire at UCLA pleaded not guilty on Wednesday.

KNX 1070’s Ed Mertz reports Patrick Harran faces charges in connection with the fire that killed a staff research assistant nearly four years ago.

The plea was entered by Superior Court Judge Shelly Torrealba after the defense attorney for Harran objected to entering a plea at this time.

Harran faces three felony counts of willful violation of an occupational safety and health standard causing the death of Sheri Sangii, who died 18 days after the fire on December 29, 2008.

While defense attorney Thomas P. O’Brien argued the fire was an accident and not a crime, staffers like Rita Kern who work inside labs within the UC system say the danger is still there.

“If there were a trial, I think…a lot of information would come out about how lab safety has been done or not been done adequately,” said Kern.

UCLA reached a settlement in the case and is not being sued.

Prosecutors said any plea bargain deals offered to Harran have been rescinded.

He is due back in court on Oct. 9 for a hearing to determine if there is enough evidence to require him to stand trial.

(©2012 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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