Men opt for bench trial in assault case

April 24, 2012 at 10:12 PM
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BALTIMORE, April 24 (UPI) -- Two Jewish men accused of beating a black teen while on neighborhood watch in Baltimore withdrew a request to delay their trial and opted for a bench trial.

Avi and Eliyahu Werdesheim waived their right to a jury trial Tuesday because their lawyer claimed it would be difficult finding an impartial jury after their case had been compared to the Trayvon Martin case in Florida, The Baltimore Sun reported.

The brothers are accused of assaulting 15-year-old Corey Ausby on Nov. 19, 2010, in Baltimore's Park Heights neighborhood while Eliyahu Werdesheim, 24, was patrolling for Shomrim, an Orthodox Jewish citizens' watch group.

Police said the Werdesheims told Ausby, "You don't belong around here," then pushed him to the ground and hit the teen with a hand-held radio.

Avi Werdesheim, 21, was not a member of Shomrim, his attorney, Susan Green, said Tuesday.

The brothers have pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree assault, false imprisonment -- for holding the teen down -- and carrying a deadly weapon with the intent to injure. They claim Ausby came at them first with a board with nails in it.

On Monday, defense lawyers requested the trial be postponed or the venue changed, saying their case had been compared to Martin's case.

Martin was shot and killed in February by George Zimmerman, a captain of the neighborhood watch for his gated community in Florida. Zimmerman, 28, who is of white and Hispanic heritage, contends he shot Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old black youth, in self defense.

The similarities between the cases "are conspicuous," defense lawyers wrote.

"Both involve young African-American males walking along on public thoroughfares, who supposedly were accosted by one or more Caucasian members of citizen patrol groups who felt they didn't belong in the area, and allegedly subjected to unprovoked attacks," the motion said. The Werdesheims can't get a fair trial in Baltimore amid all the publicity, defense attorneys said.

The Werdesheim brothers trial is set to begin Wednesday before Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Pamela White.

The brothers "feel very confident in [her] judgment," Eliyahu Werdesheim said.

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