Moorpark professor to stand trial in bludgeoning death of pro-Israeli counterprotester Paul Kessler

Thousand Oaks, California November 7, 2023-Avia Jacobs, left, and her mother Sharona pay their respects to Paul Kessler , a Jewish supporter, who died after being struck by a Palestinian protestor at the corner of Westlake Blvd. and Thousand Oaks Blvd. in Thousand Oaks. (Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times)
Avia Jacobs and her mother, Sharona, pay their respects to Paul Kessler, a Jewish supporter who died after being struck by a Palestinian protester at Westlake and Thousand Oaks boulevards in Thousand Oaks. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

A Ventura County Superior Court judge declared on Wednesday that there was enough evidence to hold for trial a Moorpark man accused in the death of counterprotester Paul Kessler last year.

Judge Ryan Wright decided that Loay Abdel Fattah Alnaji, 51, would stand trial after listening to 18 witnesses over a two-day preliminary hearing, according to the Ventura County district attorney's office.

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, according to district attorney's spokesperson Joey Buttitta. If found guilty of all charges, Alnaji could spend up to four years in prison.

Alnaji posted $50,000 bail. He could not be reached for comment.

Alnaji's and Kessler’s lives forever changed on Nov. 5 at a pro-Palestinian rally at Westlake and Thousand Oaks boulevards in Thousand Oaks.

Read more: Paul Kessler died protesting in support of Israel. What really happened?

The site had been known as a gathering point for pro-Palestianian groups protesting Israel's bombardment of the Gaza Strip in response to the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Hamas.

Kessler, 69, carried an Israeli flag and joined a group of counterprotesters. In total, about 100 people were at the intersection.

A “physical confrontation” broke out between Kessler and Alnaji, in which Alnaji allegedly bludgeoned Kessler with a megaphone, according to the district attorney. Kessler fell to the ground bleeding with severe head injuries.

He died the next day at a hospital.

Read more: 'Conflicting statements' complicate investigation into Jewish man's death at protest

Evidence presented in the preliminary hearing by Courtney Lewis, senior deputy district attorney, included DNA analysis of Kessler’s blood found on the rim of a megaphone that Alnaji is accused of using to hit the man.

Kessler’s cellphone video that shows the moments leading up to the attack was also submitted as evidence.

County medical examiner Dr. Othon Mena also testified about Kessler’s cause of death. Mena said Kessler died from blunt force trauma caused by the blow from the megaphone and the subsequent fall.

The district attorney’s office said that although antisemitic hate speech took place that day, it couldn't link anything to Alnaji.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.