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California Professor to Stand Trial for Death of Pro-Israel Protester
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By Associated Press
Published 2 weeks ago on
May 16, 2024

A Southern California college professor will stand trial for involuntary manslaughter and battery in the death of a Jewish counter-protester during demonstrations over the Israel-Hamas war last year, a judge ruled Wednesday. (AP File)

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VENTURA, Calif.  — A judge decided Wednesday that a Southern California college professor will stand trial for involuntary manslaughter and battery in the death of a Jewish counter-protester during demonstrations over the Israel-Hamas war last year.

Superior Court Judge Ryan Wright judge declared after a two-day preliminary hearing that there’s enough evidence to try Loay Abdelfattah Alnaji, according to the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office. A preliminary hearing requires a lower burden of proof to move forward, compared to the “beyond a reasonable doubt” needed for a conviction during a trial.

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

Kessler, 69, fell backward and struck his head on the pavement. He died the next day at a hospital.

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

Alnaji posted $50,000 bail. Alnaji’s lawyer, Ron Bamieh, said he expected the judge’s preliminary hearing ruling because the burden of proof is so low.

Bamieh said Kessler’s medical records show he had a brain tumor that caused problems with his balance, and had a history of falling over the last decade. The attorney also said the prosecution does not have credible eyewitness testimony.

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

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