NEW YORK (JTA) — Lawyers for two Baltimore Jewish brothers accused of beating a black teenager withdrew a request to move the trial out of the city and requested a bench trial.
The trial of Avi and Eliyahu Werdesheim will begin Wednesday morning in Baltimore Circuit Court before Judge Pamela White with no jury. Defense attorneys had requested a change of venue because of perceived similarities between the case and the death of Trayvon Martin in Florida.
The brothers, who are accused of beating a 15-year-old male in November 2010, have pleaded not guilty to the charges of second-degree assault, false imprisonment and carrying a deadly weapon They face up to 13 years in prison if convicted on all three counts.
Eliyahu Werdesheim, now 24, was a member of Shomrim, a Jewish neighborhood watch group, at the time of the incident. According to a police account, Eliyahu Werdesheim told the black teen, “You don’t belong around here,” while his brother, now 21, threw the boy to the ground, the Baltimore Sun reported.
Lawyers for the Werdesheims claimed Monday that their clients should be tried elsewhere because black community leaders in Baltimore have linked the case with the death of Martin, a black teen from Florida who was shot by a neighborhood watch patrolman named George Zimmerman. Zimmerman is being tried for second-degree murder, and the case has received widespread national attention.
"Both involve young African-American males walking along on public thoroughfares who supposedly were accosted by one or more Caucasian members of citizen patrol groups who felt they didn’t belong in the area, and allegedly subjected to unprovoked attacks," the defense lawyers’ motion said, according to the newspaper.
The motion added that the Werdesheims’ case has "ignited a firestorm of controversy, recriminations and protests in the greater Baltimore metropolitan region and has served to polarize various segments of the community."
Prosecutors in the Werdesheims’ trial had said it should go forward because the two incidents are separate.