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University professor to face trial for death of pro-Israel counter-protester last year

Ventura, California. — A judge ruled Wednesday that a Southern California university professor will be tried on charges of involuntary manslaughter and battery in the death of a Jewish counterprotester during protests against the Israel-Hamas war Last year.

Superior Court Judge Ryan Wright said after a two-day preliminary hearing that there was enough evidence to try Loay Abdelfattah Alnaji, according to the Ventura County Prosecutor’s Office.

Alnaji, 51, is accused of hitting Paul Kessler with a megaphone in November during a confrontation at an event that began as a pro-Palestinian protest in Thousand Oaks, a suburb northwest of Los Angeles .

California protester dies
Attorney Ron Bamieh, left, listens to his client, Loay Abdelfattah Alnaji, a computer science professor at Moorpark College, in Ventura County Superior Court on November 17, 2023, in Ventura, California. A judge ruled May 15 that Alnaji would appear. trial for involuntary manslaughter and battery in the death of a Jewish counter-protester during demonstrations against the Israel-Hamas war last year.

Damian Dovarganes / AP

Kessler, 69, fell backwards and hit his head on the sidewalk. He died the next day in hospital.

Alnaji was charged with two felonies: involuntary manslaughter and battery causing serious bodily injury, with special allegations of serious bodily injury inflicted on each count, the prosecutor’s office said. If convicted of all charges, he could be sentenced to more than four years in prison.

Alnaji posted $50,000 bail. An Associated Press email and phone message to Alnaji’s attorney, Ron Bamieh, was not immediately returned Wednesday.

Alnaji, a computer science professor at Moorpark College, had espoused pro-Palestinian views on his Facebook page and other social media accounts, many of which were deleted in the days following Kessler’s death, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The prosecutor’s office says it “continues to translate and review messages, social media posts, files and documents belonging to Alnaji.” This assessment is ongoing and comprehensive, but to date has not revealed any evidence supporting a hate crime. was heard at the rally on November 5, 2023, there is no evidence that these words were spoken by Alnaji.


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