A California college professor pleaded not guilty to manslaughter and battery charges in the death of a Jewish protester. Loay Alnaji, 50, is accused of striking the victim with a bullhorn and causing him to strike his head on the sidewalk when he fell.
There is no word if “hate crime” charges will be filed, though that is doubtful.
Alnaji is accused of getting into a physical altercation on Nov. 5 with Paul Kessler, 69, who was carrying an Israeli flag at the protest. He was arraigned the next day in Ventura County Superior Court.
Charges include one count of involuntary manslaughter and another count of battery causing serious bodily injury. Alnaji faces up to four years in prison on each count if convicted.
Kessler died the day after the incident. The autopsy found his cause of death was the blunt force trauma he sustained when he struck the sidewalk.
There was also non-lethal bruising found on the side of his face, suggesting he was struck before collapsing to the ground. Alnaji remains behind bars on a $50,000 bond.
Kessler carried the flag as part of a peaceful pro-Israel demonstration.
Ventura County Sheriff Jim Fryhoff told reporters on Nov. 7 that his investigation determined Kessler fell backward and struck his head.
However, investigators did not have a clear view of the incident in the video they possessed and asked for the public’s assistance in finding additional images.
The suspect reportedly remained at the scene and said he called 911. He was briefly detained for questioning and law enforcement later searched his home in Moorpark.
The investigation is hampered by conflicting testimony from witnesses at the scene. Fryhoff said this harms the credibility of accounts given and the chances of proving what transpired on that fateful day.
The Associated Press reported that former San Diego police officer and special prosecutor Edward Obayashi said he is not surprised by the arrest and charges. Involuntary manslaughter is the lowest level of a charge for a death.
With the high profile of the case and the current state of world affairs, Obayashi said “there is a lot of pressure on the authorities. The default position is making an arrest.”