A Canadian member of the Jewish Defence League (JDL) has been indicted by a U.S. grand jury on assault charges that include the beating of a Palestinian-American man.
Toronto-area resident Yosef Steynovitz, 33, faces three assault-related charges stemming from brawls that took place in Washington, D.C., last March, at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference.
Steynovitz faces one count of assaulting a man with a dangerous weapon (a pole) and one count of assaulting another man.
The third count, assault with significant bodily injury, relates to the beating of Kamal Nayfeh, a 55-year-old Palestinian-American community college teacher who was reportedly walking to the conference when the attack happened.
The prosecution alleges that Steynovitz was armed with “dangerous and deadly weapons” – a shoe and a pole – when the alleged beating took place.
The indictment alleges that Steynovitz “unlawfully assaulted and threatened Kamal Nayfeh in a menacing manner and intentionally, knowingly and recklessly caused significant bodily injury.”
Notably, the count includes a hate crime enhancement that could lead to an increased penalty if Steynovitz is convicted.
The indictment, which was obtained by The CJN, states that the count relating to Nayfeh “demonstrated the prejudice of Yosef Steynovitz based on the actual or perceived race, colour or national origin of Kamal Nayfeh.”
A U.S. indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed a violation of criminal laws.
“Every defendant is presumed innocent until, and unless, proven guilty,” Bill Miller of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia told The CJN via email.
Videos taken at last spring’s AIPAC conference shows several members of the JDL holding their distinctive yellow flags and swarming Nayfeh, then kicking him while he’s on the ground and beating him with a flagpole, until police intervened.
According to charging documents, following his arrest, Steynovitz “was observed (in the video) knocking the complainant to the ground and striking the complainant while the complainant was on the ground.”
Every defendant is presumed innocent until, and unless, proven guilty.
– Bill Miller
At the time, Meir Weinstein, the Canadian director of the JDL who was on the scene in Washington, alleged that videos of this and other incidents at the AIPAC conference were “selective” and “spliced.”
Widely circulated photos of Nayfeh after the beating showed his face bloodied and bruised. He was taken to hospital, where he received several stitches around his eye.
Steynovitz is due to appear in court in the District of Columbia on Jan. 3 for his arraignment.
The CJN was unable to reach him for comment.