Probation in Md. neighborhood watch beating case
BALTIMORE – A former member of an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood watch group convicted in the 2010 beating of a black teenager in Baltimore received a suspended sentence Wednesday.
Eliyahu Werdesheim, 24, was handed a three-year suspended sentence and three years of probation for convictions on charges of second-degree assault and false imprisonment. The two sentences are to run concurrently.
Circuit Judge Pamela J. White also ordered Werdesheim to write essays on the challenges facing diverse Baltimore neighborhoods.
Eliyahu Werdeseheim told White before she sentenced him Wednesday that he was "very sorry for the hurt and suffering I've caused."
"I don't think there's an hour that goes by where I don't think of the decisions I've made," Werdesheim said, wearing a suit and a yarmulke in a courtroom full of supporters, many also with yarmulkes.
Werdesheim had been acquitted of a deadly weapon charge in a bench trial case in May that had drawn comparisons by some to the fatal shooting of unarmed Florida teen Trayvon Martin by a neighborhood watch volunteer.
Prosecutors had said Werdesheim and his 22-year-old brother, Avi Werdesheim, attacked the 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 had testified that he acted in self-defense — a claim later rejected by the judge — when the teen attacked him with a nail-studded plank.
Avi Werdesheim was acquitted after his older brother testified that the 22-year-old wasn't involved in the fight and wasn't a neighborhood watch member.
White ordered Eliyahu Werdesheim to read newspapers and newsletters from various neighborhoods and ethnic groups and write essays about the differences, similarities and challenges facing them all.
The judge noted the support of the community and Werdesheim's lack of criminal record, adding there was nothing to be served by sending him to prison. The judge also said she would consider granting probation before judgment, a step that could allow the conviction to be eventually erased from his record.
J. Wyndal Gordon, an attorney for the teen's family, asked the judge for a sentence that included prison time, but said afterward that he was pleased with the sentence.
"I'm satisfied, this was very conscientious and the right thing to do," Gordon said.
Prosecutors had recommended a three-year suspended sentence, three years of probation, anger management counseling and 100 hours of community service. Defense attorney Andrew Alperstein told the judge his client had already undergone anger management counseling.
In her decision in May, White did not consider the testimony of the now-16-year-old victim, who was excused after refusing to testify. The Associated Press is not identifying the teen because he is a minor.
The teen did not appear at Wednesday's sentencing.