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California college professor to stand trial in death of pro-Israel protester last year

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 trial conviction.

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.

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 of the low burden of proof..

Bamieh said Kessler’s medical records show he had a brain tumor that caused balance problems and had a history of falling. 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.

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