Avi and Eliyahu Werdesheim, two brothers allegedly responsible for the beating of a 15-year-old African American male walking in an Orthodox Jewish community, were able to hold off facing a judge in court April 23.

The brothers originally wanted to postpone their trial in order to seek a change of venue. That request was a failed attempt to find someone who hasn’t been watching the George Zimmerman case unfold on national television. Instead, the defendants now say they would prefer a bench trial with no jury, where one judge will make the decision of guilt or innocence.

The brothers’ lawyers feared with protests scheduled by local civil rights organizations and media coverage linking the cases, jurors would be unjustly influenced by information, true or false, drawing similarities between Zimmerman and the Werdesheim brothers.

“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,” said attorneys for Avi Werdesheim, Andrew Alperstein and Susan Green, in their written request for a delay of trial April 23.

According to charging documents in the Werdesheim case, on Nov. 19, 2010 an African American teen, who’s identity is being protected, was walking through a North Baltimore Jewish community when he allegedly encountered the brothers.

The teen, in charging documents, recalls one of the brothers shouting, “You don’t belong here, get outta here,” before he was hit on the head with a handheld radio. The documents say the teen was also held down by a third person so he couldn’t escape.

Avi Werdesheim told the {Baltimore Jewish Times} that they were acting in self-defense. The teen was taken to the hospital where a broken wrist and a wound on his head were documented.

The incident has sparked more conversations about race relations in the nation, as resemblances between the two cases can’t help but form. Both cases include the assault of an unarmed African American pedestrian at the hands of rogue community watchmen serving in an unofficial capacity. Similar too was the alarming delay in action to find responsible parties. While older brother Eliyahu Werdesheim, now 24, was apprehended 10 days after the assault, his younger brother, Avi, now 21, was free for two months before his arrest.

Even more striking is the relaxed approach in bringing those responsible to justice. Eliyahu Werdesheim was only required to pledge a $50,000 bail in order to be released, meaning he didn’t actually pay a dime, but instead was only asked to promise he would pay if he didn’t show up for court, according to J. Wyndal Gordon, attorney for the assaulted teen. “I know its going to sound rather extreme, but just by my experience working in the criminal justice system, it almost appears as if African Americans are living in a police state,” said Gordon.

“There are two sets of rules. As applied, the rules are often more stringently applied on African Americans than everyone else,” said Gordon. “I intend to bring more attention to it so that people don’t think these are isolated incidents and that these African American victims are somehow responsible for their fate. I want to see more equality in the American justice system,” said Gordon.

If found guilty of all three charges, which include false imprisonment, assault in the second degree, and assault with a deadly weapon, the brothers could spend up to 13 years in prison.

To date, the trial has already been delayed six times.


Alexis Taylor

AFRO Staff Writer