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Teen declines to testify against Werdesheim brothers

The victim in a case against two brothers accused of beating him refused to testify Wednesday.

Corey Ausby, 16, said he did not want to testify against defendants Eliyahu and Avi Werdesheim. He told the court, “I feel in my heart what they did was wrong, but didn’t mean to call police on them.”

The brothers are on trial in Baltimore City Circuit Court for beating the teen during a neighborhood watch patrol Nov. 19, 2010. The watch group, called Shomrim, patrols an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood in Baltimore. The Werdesheim brothers are charged with second-degree assault, false imprisonment and carrying a deadly weapon.

The defense requested a bench trial, asking the case be judged and decided by Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Pamela J. White. The defense decided to forego its right to a trial by jury because of its similarities to the February shooting of black Florida teen Trayvon Martin by a neighborhood watch member, a story that has gained national attention.

Testifying Wednesday, Ausby sat far from the microphone and spoke softly, often with his head bowed. He mumbled in broken sentences between sobs, elbows on his knees, staring at the ground.

White asked the court to take an early recess in order to find Ausby a hand-microphone he could use to be better heard.

“It’s important for me to be able to hear what you are saying,” White told Ausby in the courtroom. “I need you to speak loudly enough.”

Ausby faced the judge in the afternoon with the defense attorneys sitting at a nearby table, but was still unable to communicate. At one point, he told the judge he did not want to testify and wanted to drop the charges. The case was brought by the state, not Ausby, and will continue.

When White asked him if he wanted to testify, Ausby stood up and brought the microphone to his face.

“The whole time I did not want to go through stuff I have to go through,” Ausby told the court. “I felt I was being pressured by the situation. In my heart, I don’t want to testify.”

The judge then dismissed Ausby as a witness.

Assistant State’s Attorney Kevin Wiggins told the judge that Ausby had been walking through the Orthodox Jewish neighborhood to meet his mother for a doctor’s appointment. A car with two men in it pulled up and told Ausby he did not belong there, Wiggins said. Ausby had armed himself with a board when the car returned, but dropped it by the time the brothers got out of the car, he said.

Eliyahu Werdesheim then grabbed Ausby while his brother hit him in the head with a radio, and a third patrol member stepped on Ausby’s hand to stop him from using his phone, Wiggins told the judge.

Defense attorneys Andrew Alperstein, representing Eliyahu Werdesheim, and Susan Green, attorney for Avi Werdesheim, said the brothers acted in self-defense since Ausby was armed with a wooden board with two nails on the end.

Heshie Klein, a Shomrim member, who was listening to the group’s radio the day of the incident, testified that there were reports of a black man in tan pants walking through someone’s property. Klein said he then turned down his radio.

Klein said another Shomrim member called him on his cell phone later, reporting he was with a “kid who was bleeding out of the back of his head.” Klein went to the scene, but said neither he nor the other watch member called police. Ausby eventually called 9-1-1.

Wednesday was the first day of trial in the case, which had been postponed six times since the brothers were indicted in January 2011. The trial is expected to continue through next week.