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News Maryland Baltimore Crime Beat

Convictions stricken in neighborhood watch beating case

A Baltimore circuit judge on Tuesday struck the convictions of a neighborhood watchman who beat a teenager, saying at a brief hearing that he had complied well with the terms of his probation.

Eliyahu Werdesheim, a former member of a Shomrim patrol in Park Heights, was convicted last summer of wrongful imprisonment and assault in the beating of Corey Ausby. The case revealed tensions between some members of the black and Jewish communities in Northwest Baltimore.

Werdesheim is white and Ausby is black, and the 2010 incident attracted comparisons to the fatal shooting in Florida of Trayvon Martin.

Andrew I. Alperstein, Werdesheim's attorney, said in an interview that the case raised some "important underlying social issues" but added that they had been "exploited" by people not directly connected to it.

Werdesheim, who Alperstein noted had recently become a father, said he learned a great deal from the case.

"I definitely made some mistakes," Werdesheim told the judge. "I will never make those mistakes again."

Last year, Werdesheim was sentenced to three years' probation. At Tuesday's hearing, White struck the conviction, imposed probation before judgment and cut in half the term of Werdesheim's probation, which is now scheduled to conclude at the end of the month.

The change of sentence also means Werdesheim can apply for law school without having to state that he has a criminal record, Alperstein said.

No one from Ausby's family was in court Tuesday. Told of the change of sentence, J. Wyndal Gordon, their attorney, questioned whether Werdesheim was really sorry about what happened and said he had shown a "cowboy attitude."

The precise details of who made the first move in the altercation were not clear at trial. But White ruled at the end of the case that Werdesheim and his brother followed the teenager, scaring him and causing him to pick up a wooden board with nails in it.

Werdesheim pinned Ausby to the ground and hit him in the head with a walkie-talkie, Judge Pamela J. White found. His brother was acquitted.

Werdesheim originally received three years' probation, and White said she was impressed with his "responsiveness" to its terms, including the production of a 53-page report on diversity in Baltimore.

Werdesheim said working on the report at the library gave him a chance to meet a wide variety of types of people and concluded that the similarities of different parts of Baltimore were "overwhelming."

The state's attorney's office did not oppose the move, which authorities anticipated when Werdesheim was originally sentenced. Mark Cheshire, a spokesman for the office, said prosecutors handled the case well.

"We took a serious case to trial, we successfully prosecuted and it and we secured a proportionate and just sentence," he said.

iduncan@baltsun.com

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