By Steve Kilar, The Baltimore Sun
9:16 PM EDT, May 2, 2012
The judge presiding over the trial of two brothers accused of assaulting a teen in Northwest Baltimore plans to give her ruling in the case Thursday afternoon.
Baltimore Circuit Judge Pamela J. White has heard a week of arguments in the bench trial of Eliyahu Werdesheim, 24, and his brother, Avi Werdesheim, 22. After the prosecutor and defense attorneys completed their closing statements Wednesday afternoon, White told them that she expects to issue her verdict at 3 p.m. Thursday.
The Werdesheim brothers are charged with pinning Corey Ausby, 16, to the ground and striking him in the head.
Neither side disputes that the brothers encountered Ausby on Nov. 19, 2010, after they responded to a neighborhood watch call. The call, for a suspicious person on a residential stretch of Fallstaff Road, came over a walkie-talkie issued to Eliyahu by an Orthodox Jewish citizens group called Shomrim that patrols the Park Heights neighborhood.
The Werdesheims are white and Ausby is black, and the case sparked tensions among some black and Jewish residents in the community.
Assistant State's Attorney Kevin Wiggins argued in his closing that Ausby was surrounded by the brothers and Avi struck the teen from behind with Eliyahu's walkie-talkie.
The Werdesheims intimidated Ausby by watching and following him as he walked to a bus stop, Wiggins argued.
"They wanted to frighten him," Wiggins said. "They wanted him out of that neighborhood."
Avi's attorney, Susan Green, maintained that her client spoke to Ausby during the midday incident but did not take part in the altercation.
Green said Ausby was told that he didn't "belong around here" because it was the middle of a school day and he should have been in class.
Attorney Andrew I. Alperstein, who represents Eliyahu, said in his closing that the Werdesheims came upon Ausby as the teen was looking at houses and cars. Ausby then attacked Eliyahu, who was forced to defend himself, Alperstein said.
To support his self-defense claim, the elder brother took the stand Wednesday.
"I didn't want to hurt him. I just wanted to keep myself safe," Eliyahu testified.
Eliyahu said that he and Avi were driving home when the suspicious-person call came over the walkie-talkie. On Fallstaff Road, they observed Ausby walking in yards, looking into the windows of homes, disappearing behind one house and pulling on the door handle of an SUV parked in a driveway, Eliyahu said.
The Werdesheim brothers eventually got out of the car and addressed Ausby, who became agitated, Eliyahu said. Ausby walked away from them and pulled a board from a wooden pallet that was near a home under construction, he said.
The teen began carrying the board with him down the street, away from the brothers, Eliyahu said.
"He was keeping it low by his side," he testified. Ausby was "lightly swinging" the board "with the momentum of his steps," he said.
As Ausby walked away, Eliyahu said, he noticed a middle-age woman with her dog down the block, he said.
Eliyahu decided that he would try to speak to Ausby again — in order to calm him, so that he would put down the board, he said. He testified that he planned to use "verbal de-escalation" skills that he had learned in the military.
Eliyahu got out of the car again and began speaking to Ausby, who quickly turned and ran at him holding the board above his head, he said. Eliyahu said he saw then that there were nails sticking out of the wood.
Ausby began to bring the board down toward Eliyahu's head, Eliyahu testified. In response, he deflected the arm in which Ausby held the board and struck the teen on the head with his right hand, which was carrying the walkie-talkie, Eliyahu said.
Ausby fell to the ground and dropped the board, which Eliyahu tossed onto the sidewalk, he said. Other members of Shomrim ran up to the scene and detained Ausby on the ground, he said.
The brothers quickly left the area after the other Shomrim members arrived, he said.
"In hindsight, I very much regret the decision" to get out of the car, Eliyahu testified.
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