Eliayahu and Avi Werdesheim, who were charged with beating a 15-year-old black male while patrolling a Baltimore neighborhood, asked for a change of venue Monday, citing publicity and parallels raised by the case against neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman in Florida.
The Werdesheims were in court Monday after six postponements to face charges of second-degree assault, false imprisonment and carrying a deadly weapon. They were granted a one-day delay Monday due to the filing for a change of venue.
Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Sylvester Cox granted the delay until Tuesday morning. The change-of-venue motion is expected to be argued Tuesday afternoon in front of Judge Pamela White.
Andrew Alperstein, one of the attorneys representing the Werdesheims, said publicity raised in the case against Zimmerman, who faces murder charges in Florida for killing unarmed teen Trayvon Martin, were a cause for concern.
The Baltimore incident occurred while the Werdesheims were patrolling an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood. The brothers claimed self defense and said the teen was holding a nail-studded board. The pair face up to 13 years in prison if convicted on all three counts
The Internet, social media and 24-hour news channels make it more difficult for the jury selection process, voir dire, to weed out biased potential jurors in this case “given the saturation of media coverage in this matter, and the inextricable intertwinement of the Trayvon Martin saga,” Alperstein and Susan Green, attorney for Avi Werdesheim, wrote in their motion for a new venue filed Monday morning.
Alperstein said at the hearing Monday that he did not believe the voir dire process would be enough to overcome the high emotions that have been raised in the wake of the Martin murder. He said that in Baltimore, there have been multiple protests and marches in response to Martin’s killing.
“That attention, combined with the parallels of the case, make us think a delay until the matter settles down is in the best interest of justice,” Alperstein said.
Baltimore City Assistant State’s Attorney Kevin Wiggins opposed the delay and said the state was ready to proceed to trial. He said he was “leery” of the timing of the request and said there were distinct differences in the cases that voir dire would be able to take care of.
According to charging documents, the incident occurred on Nov. 19, 2010, when the brothers pulled up to the victim, got out and “surrounded him.” The teen was thrown to the ground and hit in the head with a hand-held radio, then patted down.
After being attacked, the teen called police and was taken to a hospital with a cut on the back of his head and a broken wrist, according to court documents. Using a photo book compiled by investigators, the teen later identified Eliyahu Werdesheim, now 24, as one of the men who assaulted him. He was arrested after about 10 days; his now 21-year-old brother was charged two months later.
Eliyahu Werdesheim was suspended from the neighborhood group while Avi was never a member, according to Nathan Willner, general counsel for Shomrim of Baltimore, a group that patrols neighborhoods with a large concentration of Jewish residents and institutions in the Baltimore area.
Shomrim, which is Hebrew for guard, has about 30 volunteer, unarmed responders. It was founded in 2005 to provide security and gather information for police, Willner said.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.