A Baltimore judge on Wednesday sentenced a Jewish former neighborhood watch member to three years of probation for assaulting and illegally detaining a black teenager in the fall of 2010.
But the judge also tacked on an unusual form of punishment for Eliyahu Werdesheim: homework.
Werdesheim, 24, must read, research and write about Baltimore City's special interest groups and the strengths and weaknesses of its neighborhoods.
"I'm not contemplating any incarceration," Baltimore City Circuit Judge Pamela White said Wednesday afternoon as she declared her sentence. "You need to broaden your sense of community."
White advised Werdesheim that he could find the publications he needed for his research at the Enoch Pratt Free Library, where she hangs out.
White sentenced Werdesheim to three years in prison—all suspended—on each of two charges: second-degree assault and false imprisonment of then-15-year-old Corey Ausby of Baltimore.
She also sentenced him to three years of supervised probation, with conditions. In addition to probation, Werdesheim is to pay court costs, and must work and attend school regularly.
Werdesheim is to have no contact with Ausby.
White gave Werdesheim and his attorney, Andrew Alperstein, no more than 18 months to move to strike a conviction that stemmed from an altercation on Nov. 19, 2010.
At the time, Werdesheim was a relatively new member of the Shomrim of Baltimore neighborhood watch group.
He was on patrol with his brother, Avi, when he twice confronted Corey Ausby, whom Werdesheim said was looking into houses and car windows in the Upper Park Heights area of Baltimore near Pikesville.
White convicted Werdesheim on May 3 of second-degree assault and false imprisonment of Ausby. He was acquitted on charges of using a dangerous weapon with intent to injure.
His brother was found not guilty.
J. Wyndal Gordon spoke out for Ausby's family Wednesday in court. Gordon is the attorney who represented Ausby's family in the civil case against Werdesheim that, Gordon noted, they voluntarily dropped.
Before the sentencing Gordon urged White to give Werdesheim jail time. "Too many times we see those who commit crimes are not accountable," he said.
"Have him jailed and feel some of ... the pain felt by Corey Ausby," he said, noting that Ausby has mental injuries that need to heal.
But, after hearing the sentence, Gordon said he was satisfied, and that the Ausbys are trying to move on.
"You look at what he has done," Gordon said of Werdesheim, who presented more than 100 letters of support from community leaders, educators and friends.
"He has shown himself to be worthy of an opportunity," Gordon said outside the courthouse.
Community leaders, including Rabbi Mitchell Wohlberg of Beth Tfiloh Congregation and its Dahan Community School, and Keith Scott, president and chief executive officer for the Baltimore County Chamber of Commerce, spoke in support of Werdesheim in court.