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Postponement sought in Baltimore neighborhood watch trial

Kim Hairston / Kim Hairston, Baltimore Sun

Left to right, Avi Werdesheim, 20, and, Eliyalu Eliezer Werdesheim, 23, charged with assaulting a black teenager while members of Shomrim, a Jewish neighborhood patrol group, leave the Circuit Court after their arraignment.

Two brothers accused of beating a black teenager in Baltimore, Md., while patrolling for an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood watch are seeking to postpone their trial that had been set to begin Monday because of publicity comparing their case to the Trayvon Martin shooting.

Defense attorney Andrew Alperstein requested the delay on behalf of Eliyahu and Avi Werdesheim, saying there were similarities and significant differences between the two cases, but it could be difficult for jurors to separate them as details of the Martin case come out.

In the Martin case, 28-year-old George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, claimed he shot the 17-year-old Martin in self-defense on Feb. 26. Prosecutors later charged Zimmerman with second-degree murder. The shooting sparked protests nationwide, as well as debates about the laws and race. Martin was black; Zimmerman is the son of a white father and Hispanic mother.

"We believe a delay until the [George] Zimmerman matter settles down would be in the best interests of justice," Alperstein said, The Baltimore Sun reported.

Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Sylvester B. Cox, who did not make a ruling, ordered the brothers to return Tuesday morning, according to the Baltimore Sun.

The Werdesheims, who are white and Jewish, have claimed self-defense in the 2010 incident, saying the teen was holding a board studded with nails. The trial has already been postponed six times.

The Werdesheims are accused of beating a 15-year-old boy who was walking through a Baltimore neighborhood in November 2010. The brothers pulled up next to the teen in a vehicle, then got out and surrounded him, according to charging documents. The passenger threw the teen to the ground and the driver hit him in the head with a hand-held radio and patted him down.

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The teen remembered the driver yelling, "You wanna (mess) with us, you don't belong around here, get outta here!" according to court documents, which do not identify which brother was driving.

The teen was cut on the back of his head and had a broken wrist, according to court documents, the Associated Press reported. The teen later identified Eliyahu Werdesheim, now 24, as one of the men who assaulted him. He was arrested after about 10 days; his now 21-year-old brother was charged two months later.

The brothers are charged with second-degree assault, false imprisonment and carrying a deadly weapon (the hand-held radio). The pair face up to 13 years in prison if convicted on all three counts.

Eliyahu Werdesheim has been suspended from the neighborhood group while Avi was never a member, according to Baltimore officials.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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