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Man accused of killing Jewish protester in Thousand Oaks pleads not guilty

A Southern California college professor pleaded not guilty on Monday to charges that stemmed from a deadly physical confrontation that happened during dueling protests over the war in the Middle East in late-2023. 

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

Loay Abdel Fattah Alnaji, 51, was charged with felony involuntary manslaughter, felony battery causing serious bodily injury and a special allegation that he personally inflicted great bodily injury on Nov. 5 when he allegedly struck Paul Kessler, 69, with a megaphone at a protest at the intersection of Thousand Oaks Boulevard and Westlake Boulevard.

Related: Man arrested in connection to the death of Jewish protester in Los Angeles area

The blow caused Kessler to fall backwards and hit his head on the pavement. He died the next day after being rushed to a hospital. 

During an information arraignment hearing in May, Superior Court Judge Ryan Wright judge declared after a two-day preliminary hearing that there was enough evidence to try Alnaji. 

Among that evidence is DNA analysis of blood that was found on the megaphone, which Alnaji is accused of using to strike Kessler. 

"The blood evidence is a match to Mr. Kessler," said a statement from the Ventura County District Attorney's Office. "Video evidence was also presented which included video and audio from Mr. Kessler's phone showing the moments before he was struck by Alnaji."

Prosecutors say that during the preliminary hearing, Dr. Othon Mena, a Ventura County medical examiner, testified that Kessler died from blunt force trauma caused by the blow from the megaphone and subsequently falling to the ground. 

A pretrail conference is set for September. 

Alnaji remains out of custody after posting $50,000 bail, prosecutors said. If convicted of all charges he faces up to four years in prison. 

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