A former member of an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood watch group who was convicted in the 2010 beating of a black teenager in Baltimore is on a path to having his record expunged after a hearing Tuesday.
Eliyahu Werdesheim received a three-year suspended sentence and three years of probation when he was sentenced in 2012. During a hearing Tuesday, a judge granted Werdesheim probation before judgment, meaning he no longer has convictions on his record, said his lawyer, Andrew Alperstein. In three years, Werdesheim can ask to have the charges removed from the public record, Alperstein said.
Prior to Tuesday’s hearing, Werdesheim, now 26, also completed essays required by the judge on neighborhood newsletters and on the similarities, differences and challenges facing various Baltimore communities. He studied the African-American, Asian, Catholic, LGBT and Jewish communities and concluded that “our similarities are far greater than our differences.”
“I cannot say that I would have volunteered to do this research if it had not been Court assigned, but having done it, I feel that I am more knowledgeable, empathetic and understanding regarding Baltimore’s unique communities,” he wrote.
Werdesheim’s case had previously drawn comparisons by some to the 2012 fatal shooting of unarmed Florida teen Trayvon Martin by then- neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman. Zimmerman was cleared of all charges in the case earlier this year.
Prosecutors said at the time of Werdesheim’s trial that he and his brother attacked a black teen on Nov. 19, 2010, hitting him with a radio and holding him on the ground after they became suspicious after seeing him in a neighborhood with a large Jewish community.
Eliyahu Werdesheim testified that he acted in self-defense — a claim later rejected by the judge — when the teen attacked him with a nail-studded plank. His younger brother, Avi Werdesheim, was acquitted after his older brother said he wasn’t involved in the fight and wasn’t a neighborhood watch member. The teenage victim refused to testify.
Werdesheim is a student at Johns Hopkins University and hopes to attend law school.