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New ‘Zimmerman’ Trial in Baltimore, This Time with Orthodox Jews

(From Left) Eli and Avi Werdesheim

(From Left) Eli and Avi Werdesheim

The trial of the brothers Eliyahu and Avraham Werdesheim, who are accused of beating a black 15-year-old on November 19, 2010 as they were patrolling an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Baltimore, is scheduled to start today, Tuesday.

Eliyahu Eliezer Werdesheim, who was 23 at the time of the beating, was a member of the Shomrim Society, a public safety group made up largely of Orthodox Jews.

In a case disturbingly reminiscent of the Trayvon Martin shooting in Florida, the brothers have been charged with assault, false imprisonment and carrying a deadly weapon. If convicted on all counts, they could be sentenced to up to 13 years in prison. The teenager suffered a cut to his head and a broken wrist. Both brothers have claimed self-defense, testifying that the teenager was holding a nail-studded board.

According to the prosecution papers, Eliyahu and Avi pulled up next to the teenager in their car, got out and “surrounded him.” One of them threw the teenager to the ground and the driver hit him in the head with a handheld radio and patted him down.

The brothers Werdesheim are white and Jewish, two facts which seem to appeal to local activists, who are hoping for a new Trayvon Martin case.

Eliyahu Werdeshei’s attorney Andrew Alperstein told Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Sylvester B. Cox that it would be difficult to assemble an unbiased jury in this case, “given the saturation of media coverage in this matter, and the inextricable intertwinement of the Trayvon Martin saga.”

In Baltimore, protesters have been urged to attend the Werdesheims’ trial, Alperstein wrote, adding, “Needless to say, the impact of such a demonstration on prospective jurors could only have served to contaminate the Defendant’s (sic) right to a fair and impartial jury here.”

Alperstein noted “conspicuous” similarities the cases: “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.”

Consequently, Alperstein argued, “We believe a delay until the Zimmerman matter settles down would be in the best interests of justice,”

Judge Cox did not rule on the defense’ request, but ordered the brothers to show up Tuesday morning, ready for trial before another judge. Alperstein will probably be given the opportunity to argue his motion fully then.

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