LOS ANGELES, CA – A man from California, Loay Alnaji, 50, denied charges of manslaughter and battery in a Ventura County Superior Court hearing on Friday. Alnaji is accused of causing the death of Jewish protestor Paul Kessler, 69, during a clash between pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian demonstrators earlier this month.
Alnaji was arrested at his residence in Moorpark, California, which is close to the site of the November 5 protests and approximately 45 miles northwest of Los Angeles. He was charged with one count of involuntary manslaughter and one count of battery causing serious bodily injury, each carrying a potential four-year prison sentence upon conviction.
Alnaji allegedly had a physical altercation with Kessler during the opposing rallies in Thousand Oaks. Kessler succumbed to his injuries the following day, which an autopsy revealed were due to blunt-force trauma to the head from a fall. The medical examiner also discovered non-lethal bruising on the left side of Kessler’s face, suggesting a possible strike before the fall.
Despite pleading not guilty, Alnaji remains in custody with a $50,000 bond. Ventura County District Attorney Erik Nasarenko stated that the charges were based on new physical and forensic evidence, as well as findings related to Kessler’s facial injuries. Over 60 witness statements and over 600 pieces of evidence, including video clips, were reviewed to establish a precise sequence of events leading up to the confrontation.
While the details of this sequence have not been disclosed, neither murder nor voluntary manslaughter charges were filed due to lack of evidence indicating malice aforethought or intent to kill. Nasarenko also noted that the evidence did not support hate crime charges.
Sheriff Jim Fryhoff mentioned that Alnaji, whose name was not publicly released then, had called 911 to report the fall and cooperated with investigators at the scene. Kessler was conscious when transported to the hospital and provided a statement to investigators. The accounts of witnesses regarding the aggressor in the incident have been conflicting.
The protests in Thousand Oaks, part of a series of demonstrations across the U.S. and globally, were fueled by the military conflict between Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian terrorist group controlling the Gaza Strip. Each side of the protest in Thousand Oaks attracted about 100 participants, according to Fryhoff.