Ottawa man charged with hate crime in Washington, D.C. attack

An Ottawa man has been charged with armed assault causing bodily injury and a hate crime in Washington, D.C., in connection with a widely publicized attack on a Palestinian man in March 2017.

Brandon David William Vaughan, 23, is to appear in a Washington courtroom on May 1 for an arraignment on the felony assault charges.

Vaughan is the third man, and second Canadian, to be charged with the attack, which occurred during a violent demonstration outside the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference. Videos of the assault show a group of men pummelling and kicking Kamal Nayfeh, a 55-year-old college professor from North Carolina who had confronted the demonstrators.

The videos show a group of people carrying U.S. and Israeli flags and the flag of the far right Jewish Defence League surround Nayfeh, while at least four men push him to the ground, kick him and beat him with poles before police break up the attack. A woman can be heard screaming “What the f—! That’s my dad!”

The others charged are Yosef Steynovitz, 32, of  Thornhill, Ont., and Rami Lubranicki, 59, of Howell, N.J.

Steynovitiz and Lubranicki were arrested at the rally, but not formally indicted until December. Both have pleaded not guilty. Vaughan was indicted by a U.S. grand jury on April 11.

The indictment alleges Vaughan “while armed with and having readily available dangerous and deadly weapons, that is, a pole and a shoe, unlawfully assaulted and threatened Kamal Nayfeh in a menacing manner and intentionally, knowingly, and recklessly caused significant bodily injury to Kamal Nayfeh.”

If convicted, Vaughan faces a maximum penalty of three years and a fine of as much as $12,500.

The grand jury further charged “that such a criminal act demonstrated the prejudice of Brandon David William Vaughan based on the actual or perceived race, color, or national origin of Kamay Nayfey … a bias-related (hate) crime.”

A hate crime conviction could increase the fine to more than $18,000 and the maximum sentence to 4 1/2 years in prison.

The charges against Vaughan were first reported in the Canadian Jewish News.

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the District of Columbia would not say why authorities took so long to indict Vaughan. “We typically don’t comment on pending investigations and this case is still being investigated,” said public information officer Bill Miller.

The Washington AIPAC rally is an annual conference aimed at fostering closer ties between Israel and the U.S., and is usually accompanied by demonstrations and counter-demonstrations outside.

A report on the attack in the Washington Post said Nayfeh was dropping his daughter off at the demonstration when he heard a pro-Israel protester saying that Palestine doesn’t exist. Nayfeh told the woman calmly that he was from Palestine, when he was set upon by his attackers, according to the Post. He needed 18 stitches to close a cut near his eye.

Vaughan is active in the Canadian far-right movement and has identified himself as a member of the Proud Boys, a self-described group of “Western chauvinists” whose slogans include “the West is best and we’ll fight to keep it that way.” In online videos, Vaughan describes himself as a “Christian buddy of the JDL” and rails against M-103, the Parliamentary motion condemning Islamophobia.

“He has attended most of the big demonstrations,” said Evan Balgord, a freelance journalist who has researched and written about the far right.

In online videos, Vaughan has expressed his support for the right wing Soldiers of Odin and the Worldwide Coalition Against Islam, travelling to Calgary to distribute leaflets opposing M-103 during a WCAI gathering.

In February, Vaughan was on Parliament Hill with the Proud Boys as part of a “Hijab Hoax” rally that followed a Toronto schoolgirl’s false claim that a man had attacked her and cut off her hijab.

Vaughan himself was arrested by the RCMP early in the rally and was banned from the Hill for 60 days by the Parliamentary Protective Service.

He then shot video of the protest from Wellington Street and streamed it lived on Facebook.

“People of all races colours and creeds coming together to stand for Canada to stand up to Justin Trudeau. This is beautiful,” he shouts giddily into the microphone. He explains that he has been banned from the Hill because of an incident at the beginning of the protest.

“We had Antifa out earlier trying to bother people. Didn’t work out for them very well. That’s the thing about Proud Boys. We show up early so we take care of the rough stuff right off the bat, get it out of the way. The only reason we do it, is so these people can have their say,” Vaughan said.

Photos of Vaughan on Facebook show him on Parliament Hill alongside former Rebel Media journalist Faith Goldie. Vaughan is carrying a megaphone and wearing a helmet and a white shirt with the slogan “Deus Vult,” the motto of Crusaders from the 10th century.

Another photo shows him shooting a semiautomatic rifle with a telescopic sight with a green and yellow “Prayers for Humboldt” banner stripped across the bottom.

Court records show Vaughan was charged with mischief under $5,000 in 2014 for allegedly breaking a window and door and a security camera at the Centennial Branch of the Ottawa Public Library. The charge was later withdrawn.

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