BALTIMORE – One brother was convicted and the other was exonerated Thursday in the 2010 beating of a black teenager they encountered while patrolling as watch volunteers in their Orthodox Jewish neighborhood.
Judge Pamela White ruled from the bench against Eliyahu and Avi Werdesheim, 24 and 22. They opted for a bench trial after withdrawing a motion to move their trial because of publicity comparing their case to the fatal shooting of black Florida teen Trayvon Martin.
Both were charged with false imprisonment, second-degree assault and carrying a deadly weapon with intent to injure. The judge found Eliyahu not guilty of the weapon charge and cleared Avi on all three.
They had no visible reaction when the verdict was read, though Eliyahu's wife ran from the courtroom in tears. They could have faced up to 13 years if convicted on all three charges.
Prosecutors said the brothers attacked the teen, hitting him with a radio and holding him on the ground. But Eliyahu testified that he acted in self-defense when the teen attacked him with a nail-studded plank and said his brother wasn't involved in the fight. The judge rejected Eliyahu's claim of self-defense.
There have been other incidents of self-styled "Shomrim" ["Guardians" in Hebrew] beating up random people, carrying out vigilante-style revenge actions, and in some cases just getting into gangsta "rumbles" with rival gangs. They have been blamed for the slow police response in the tragic Leiby Kletzky murder case last year.