Reporting Meghan McCorkell
BALTIMORE (WJZ)– Split decision. A judge rules in the trial of two brothers accused of beating a teenager during a neighborhood watch patrol.
Meghan McCorkell has new details in this contentious case.
The judge convicted one brother and acquitted the other in a controversial case that’s been watched very closely.
The judge ruled Eliyahu Werdesheim, 24, guilty of second-degree assault and false imprisonment in the 2010 beating of teen, Corey Ausby. His brother, 22-year-old Avi Werdesheim, was acquitted on all charges.
“Eliyahu Werdesheim is very upset right now. He’s disappointed. And I’m disappointed in the verdict,” defense attorney Andrew Alperstein said.
The Werdesheim brothers responded to a suspicious person call by neighborhood watch group Shomrim in 2010.
Prosecutors said the brothers confronted and attacked the teen, hitting him with a radio and holding him on the ground. Eliyahu Werdesheim testified that he acted in self-defense when the teen attacked him with a nail-studded plank and said his brother, who was not a group member, wasn’t involved in the fight.
Judge Pamela White ruled: “Eliyahu Werdesheim— who was formerly in the Israeli Army Special Forces– relied on his military training to take Ausby down, and injured Ausby in the process by hitting him in the head with the radio.”
The judge rejected claims he acted in self-defense.
In a stunning twist, the victim Corey Ausby refused to testify. But his attorney says they’re happy with Thursday’s ruling.
“This case was never about money. It was about justice. And we got it today,” J. Wyndal Gordon said.
The controversial altercation sparked racial tensions in the Park Heights community.
Reacting to the verdict, community activist Rev. Cortly C.D. Witherspoon said: “I think racial profiling was a clear element in this particular case and I think that’s why consistent training is important.”
The state’s attorney says the verdict sends a message about the scope of groups like Shomrim.
“I think that neighborhood watch organizations do serve an important role, but it’s one where they do have to work with police and not against them,” Gregg Bernstein, the Baltimore City state’s attorney, said.
The brothers are no longer affiliated with the organization.
The victim’s family has now dropped a multi-million dollar civil suit against the brothers.
Eliyahu Werdesheim was acquitted of use of a deadly weapon. His sentencing hearing has been set for the end of June.
The brothers could have faced up to 13 years if convicted on all three charges. Eliyahu now faces up to 10 years.
The brothers 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 would make it tough to find an impartial jury.