College professor to stand trial in death of pro-Israel counter-protester last year

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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.

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.

California Protester Dies
Attorney Ron Bamieh, left, listens to his client, Loay Abdelfattah Alnaji, a professor of computer science at Moorpark College, in Ventura County Superior Court on Nov. 17, 2023, in Ventura, Calif. A judge decided May 15 that Alnaji 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.

Damian Dovarganes / AP


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. An Associated Press email and phone message for Alnaji’s lawyer, Ron Bamieh, weren’t immediately returned Wednesday.

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.

The D.A.’s office says it “continues to translate and review messages, social media postings, files, and documents belonging to Alnaji. This evaluation is ongoing and comprehensive, but to date it has not revealed evidence to support a hate crime. While antisemitic hate speech was heard at the November 5, 2023, rally, there is no evidence those words were said by Alnaji.”



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