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Md. Neighborhood Watch Trial Finally Begins

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Eliyahu Werdesheim

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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — After several delays, the trial is finally getting underway for brothers accused of beating an African-American teen during a neighborhood watch.

Weijia Jiang is closely following this story and how it’s being compared to the Trayvon Martin case.

In both cases, there are some serious questions whether the attacks were motivated by race. In fact, the defense attorney says people are so outraged by both, it will impact what happens in court.

A trial is expected to begin Wednesday in the case against brothers 24-year-old Eliyahu and 21-year-old Avi Werdesheim, accused of beating a 15-year-old in November 2010. The alleged attack divided the Park Heights community where it happened. Questions immediately surfaced about whether the violence was racially motivated.

“I think that we represent every young person in this city who has experienced this type of atrocity taking place in our city every single day,” said Rev. CD Witherspoon, Southern Christian Conference.

The Werdesheims are Jewish. Eliyahu is a member of Shomrim, an Orthodox Jewish watchgroup. The victim is African-American. Police charging documents reveal one of the brothers told the teen, “You don’t belong around here.”

“This isn’t a hate crime. This isn’t anything more than a dispute of fact between two people over a relatively minor misdemeanor charge,” said Andrew Alperstein, attorney.

In recent weeks, the case has been closely linked by national media outlets to Trayvon Martin’s in Florida. There, George Zimmerman is charged with the 17-year-old’s murder, accused of racially profiling Martin as a neighborhood watch captain. In fact, Werdesheim’s lawyers called the similarities both symbolic and significant. They’re expected to ask for a judge to rule instead of a jury, claiming it would be difficult to find a jury that was impartial.

In both cases, the defendants have said they were acting in self-defense, but in pre-trial hearings, the victim said on the stand he was cornered, slammed to the ground and beaten.

Right now, both sides are wrapping up some pre-trial motions. The defense is trying to throw out a few pieces of evidence for when the trial officially begins, likely Wednesday morning.

Both brothers face multiple charges, including false imprisonment and assault.

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