Man Sentenced to 26 Years in Rosenbaum Killing

By Henri E. Cauvin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 4, 2007

One of the men who killed New York Times journalist David E. Rosenbaum last year was sentenced yesterday to 26 years in prison.

Originally charged with first-degree murder, Michael C. Hamlin, 24, could have faced a life sentence had he not agreed to plead guilty to second-degree murder and testify against his cousin and co-defendant, Percey Jordan.

Prosecutors said Jordan was the assailant who actually struck Rosenbaum on a Northwest Washington street last Jan. 6. Jordan was convicted in October of first-degree murder and is to be sentenced Jan. 12 in D.C. Superior Court.

Rosenbaum, 63, died two days after he was robbed and beaten on Gramercy Street while taking an after-dinner walk in his neighborhood. What looked like a brutal, random attack soon swelled into a scandal, as investigators uncovered a string of errors in the emergency medical care provided to Rosenbaum, at the scene, in the ambulance and at Howard University Hospital, where he died.

During his campaign for mayor, Adrian M. Fenty blasted the chief of the Department of D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services for the failings. Last week, Fenty named an interim chief to replace Adrian H. Thompson as head of the department while the search for a permanent successor continues.

Rosenbaum's family, frustrated by what they say has been a lack of candor from the city and the hospital, filed a $20 million lawsuit in November in D.C. Superior Court, claiming he was a victim of official negligence and medical malpractice.

But yesterday was not about the emergency medical workers who assumed that Rosenbaum was a drunk old man who had taken a fall, or about the hospital emergency room workers who let Rosenbaum languish on a gurney, oblivious to his grave head injuries, or about any of the other errors catalogued in a 69-page report issued in June by the District's inspector general.

It was about the man a family still grieves for a year later, and about the man who came home from work one night last January and chose to join his cousin on a violent ride around Washington.

On the surface, Hamlin seemed an unlikely participant. He had a steady job collecting trash for a private hauler and lived with his mother, whom he dutifully drove to her weekly card game before venturing out that Friday night.

His cousin, Jordan, 43, lived closer to the fringes, often sleeping in cars and hustling for money. Testifying at Jordan's trial, Hamlin said Jordan wanted to do the robbery and struck Rosenbaum repeatedly.

Yesterday, he turned to Rosenbaum's relatives and asked for their forgiveness, telling them that they are "in his prayers" every night.

None of the relatives who addressed the court -- Rosenbaum's brother Marcus, son Daniel and son-in-law Toby, who is married to Rosenbaum's daughter, Dottie -- was prepared to offer such compassion yesterday.

Instead they spoke of the man they lost and the need for justice to be done.

"He was kind and he was the one I looked up to and wanted to emulate," Daniel Rosenbaum told Judge Erik P. Christian.

Now all he can think about is his dad dying on a cold sidewalk, all alone.

"I am haunted by the nightmare Michael Hamlin and his cousin inflicted on him -- and on me," Daniel Rosenbaum said.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company