BALTIMORE (AP) — Two brothers accused of beating a black teenager while patrolling for an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood watch are seeking to postpone their trial that had been set to begin Monday because of publicity comparing their case to the Trayvon Martin shooting.
Eliyahu and Avi Werdesheim, who are white and Jewish, have claimed self-defense in the 2010 incident, saying the teen was holding a nail-studded board. The trial has already been postponed six times.
The brothers are also seeking to move the trial, Andrew Alperstein, attorney for Eliyahu Werdesheim, told Judge Sylvester Cox. While initial media coverage had died down, it has surged again in recent days, and defense attorneys found scores of stories online comparing their case to one in Florida that has stirred strong emotions across the country, he said. There are similarities and significant differences between the two cases, he noted, but it may be difficult for jurors to separate them as details of the Martin case come out.
A delay until publicity calms down surrounding the case against George Zimmerman, who is charged with second-degree murder in Martin's February death, would be in the best interest of justice, Alperstein said.
Assistant State's Attorney Kevin Wiggins told the judge that the state believes in the process used to select jurors, and that the two cases are separate and distinct.
The judge directed the two sides to return to the courthouse Tuesday, when their requests would be heard by another judge.
The Werdesheims are accused of beating a 15-year-old boy who was walking through a Baltimore neighborhood in November 2010. The brothers pulled up next to the teen in a vehicle, then got out and surrounded him, according to charging documents. The passenger threw the teen to the ground and the driver hit him in the head with a hand-held radio and patted him down.
The teen remembered the driver yelling, "You wanna (mess) with us, you don't belong around here, get outta here!" according to court documents, which do not identify which brother was driving.
Eliyahu Werdesheim told the Baltimore Jewish Times that he was acting in self-defense because the teen was holding the piece of wood. An attorney for the teen's family has said the teen picked up the board during the encounter, but put it back down.
The teen was left with a cut on the back of his head and a broken wrist, according to court documents. Using a photo book compiled by investigators, the teen later identified Eliyahu Werdesheim, now 24, as one of the men who assaulted him. He was arrested after about 10 days; his now 21-year-old brother was charged two months later.
The brothers are charged with second-degree assault, false imprisonment and carrying a deadly weapon (the hand-held radio). The pair face up to 13 years in prison if convicted on all three counts.
Eliyahu Werdesheim was suspended from the neighborhood group while Avi was never a member, according to Nathan Willner, general counsel for Shomrim of Baltimore, a group that patrols neighborhoods with a large concentration of Jewish residents and institutions in the Baltimore area.
Alperstein, the attorney for Eliyahu Werdesheim, and Susan Green, an attorney for Avi Werdesheim, declined to comment as they left the courthouse with the brothers, their relatives and supporters.
- Crime & Justice
- Politics & Government