VENTURA COUNTY, Calif. - Not guilty, that’s the plea from Loay Alnaji to charges of manslaughter and battery in the death of Paul Kessler during a dueling pro-Israel and pro-Palestine rallies earlier this month in Thousand Oaks.
The 50-year-old computer science professor at Moorpark College was arraigned Friday in a courtroom packed with supporters, who included his family and students. Loved ones of Alnaji said off camera that Alnaji may feel strongly about Palestine but would never hurt anyone on purpose.
The Ventura County DA’s office is not filing hate crime enhancements, which angered Jewish supporters, including Jonathan Oswak, who was at the protest with Kessler.
Alnaji’s attorney says he has videos showing his client was not near near Kessler when the 69-year-old fell and hit his head on the ground after some kind of altercation broke out.
The DA is filing special allegations that could mean prison time if Alnaji is found guilty and says they are still looking for more video evidence. As of Friday, prosecutors do not believe the incident counts as a hate crime.