Westwood News
Settlement Reached With UC Regents
By Eva Keqi
Jul 31, 2012 - 2:59:35 PM

WESTWOOD—On Friday, July 27, the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office dismissed the charges against the University of California Board of Regents arising from the 2008 laboratory fire incident that took the life of research assistant Sheharbano “Sheri” Sangji.

On December 29, 2008 Sangji, a research assistant at UCLA Molecular Sciences Building, was transferring a highly flammable chemical agent, tert-Butyllithium, that burns when exposed to air. She accidentally spilled the chemical over herself, while wearing a synthetic sweater which took fire and burned her body. She died from fatal injuries 18 days later at the age of 23.

Last December, the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office filed a criminal case charging the UC Regents and UCLA chemistry professor Patric Harran, Sangji’s supervisor in the organic chemistry laboratory.
UCLA Professor Patrick Harran. Photo courtesy of UCLA. http://www.canyon-news.com/artman2/publish/westwood/UCLA_Professor_Face_Lab_Death_Charges.php

The settlement reached was announced Friday by the District Attorney’s Office, which also made public the 38-pages agreement[1]. The UC Board of Regents governs the UC system. The board took the commitment to implement comprehensive corrective safety measures to enhance lab safety programs. The agreement requires that these programs should be fully compliant with the California Code of Regulations, which governs employee health and safety issues in the workplace. Since the accident in 2008, the UCLA campus has already introduced an array of initiatives to improve its lab safety.  Part of these initiatives includes the establishment of the UC Center for Laboratory Safety[2].

The UC Regents have furthermore agreed to establish a $500,000 scholarship at UC Berkley School of Law to honor Sangji’s name. The scholarship is dedicated to the study of environmental law, which was the discipline Sangji wanted to pursue.
Sheharbano "Sheri" Sangji. Photo courtesy of her dedication website. http://www.canyon- news.com/artman2/publish/westwood/UCLA_Professor_Face_Lab_Death_Charges.php

The settlement on Friday announced by Los Angeles Superior Court states that “Defendant 2, Patrick Harran is not a party to this Agreement.” This agreement has not changed the charges against the chemistry professor who faces up to 4 ½ years in prison. UCLA chancellor Gene Block sent a message[3] to the campus community on Friday expressing his appreciation to the District Attorney for acknowledging UC Regents dedication to enhance lab safety programs. However, Block was critical on the decision to continue the case against Harran and expressed UCLA’s support for him. The chancellor’s message was clear: "UCLA and the regents will continue our unwavering support for Professor Harran, a talented organic chemistry professor. We will continue to fully provide for his defense."

On Friday, Harran’s attorneys filed a defense motion[4] to ask for dismissal of the case on the basis that the chief investigator, Brian Baudendistel, is a convicted murderer who has misrepresented himself to state authorities and, therefore, lacks credibility to investigate this case. Harran’s arraignment was postponed until September 5, 2012 in order for the judge to evaluate the defense motion.

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