Baltimore Jewish Neighborhood Watch Brothers on Trial for Beating Black Teenager; Trayvon Martin Case Looms Large
Two Baltimore brothers belonging to a Jewish neighborhood watch program are on trial for the 2010 beating of a black teenager, drawing comparisons to the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case in Florida.
According to the Associated Press, Eliyahu and Avi Werdesheim, both white and Jewish, are accused of brutally beating a black 15-year-old boy as he walked through an Orthodox Jewish Baltimore neighborhood in November, 2010. Eliyahu was a member of Shomrim, which is Hebrew for “guard,” a volunteer neighborhood watch group of about 30 unarmed monitors who keep an eye on Jewish areas of the city.
According to court documents, the Werdesheim brothers pulled up next to the teen in a vehicle, got out and attacked him. The boy was thrown to the ground and hit in the head with a hand-held radio.
According to the victim, the driver of the car yelled, “You wanna mess with us, you don’t belong around here, get outta here!”
A third man then exited the vehicle and kneed the boy, pinning him to the ground. He was searched; the boy insists that he was unarmed but the Werdesheims claim to have been acting in self-defense because the teen was wielding a nail-studded board at some point during the encounter.
J. Wyndal Gordon, an attorney for the boy’s family, said that the victim did indeed pick up the piece of wood but put it back down.
As a result of his encounter with the neighborhood watch, the victim’s wrist was broken and he suffered from a cut to the head.
The Werdesheim brothers are charged with second-degree assault, false imprisonment and carrying a deadly weapon– the hand-held radio. If convicted on all three counts, they could spend as many as 13 years behind bars.
The case has drawn inevitable comparisons with the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case in Florida, in which neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman (who also happens to be Jewish) fatally shot black teen Trayvon Martin while patrolling a gated community in Sanford. Zimmerman claims he shot Martin in self-defense; Martin’s family says Trayvon was targeted because he was black. Zimmerman has been charged with second-degree murder.
How much the Trayvon Martin case will influence the Baltimore trial is unknown. In a city where nearly two-thirds of the population is black, chances are the jury will also be mainly black and the challenge for the Werdesheim brothers’ defense will be to downplay the race factor and establish that brute force was indeed necessary to stop the victim from committing some unknown crime.
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