Emotions Run High as Journalist's Assailant Gets 65-Year-Term

By Henri E. Cauvin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 13, 2007

The man convicted of delivering the blow last year that killed New York Times journalist David E. Rosenbaum was sentenced yesterday to spend what will almost certainly be the rest of his life behind bars.

Convicted last fall in D.C. Superior Court of first-degree murder, Percey Jordan, 43, was sentenced to 65 years in prison.

The punishment was handed down yesterday morning in an emotion-filled courtroom, with a prosecutor telling the judge that he should take away Jordan's "hope," a defense attorney asking for a measure of mercy and a grieving family grasping for justice.

"I can't imagine a punishment that would fit this crime," said a shaken Daniel Rosenbaum, the victim's son.

He was speaking to Judge Erik P. Christian but staring at Jordan, a few feet away. Rosenbaum's hands were trembling, and as he started to walk back to his seat, he paused for a moment and looked at Jordan, whose face betrayed little.

Christian, who presided over Jordan's trial in October, said he hoped that during his imprisonment Jordan would eventually acknowledge what he had done.

Last week, Jordan's cousin, Michael C. Hamlin, 24, pleaded guilty to his part in the robbery and was sentenced to 26 years. As part of his plea agreement, Hamlin testified against Jordan.

Despite the prospect of such testimony, Jordan had chosen to go to trial. On Oct. 24, he was convicted of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit robbery and robbery of a senior citizen.

Rosenbaum, 63, died Jan. 8, 2006, two days after he was robbed and beaten on Gramercy Street NW while taking an after-dinner walk in his neighborhood. The random attack soon evolved into a scandal as investigators uncovered a string of errors concerning the emergency medical care provided to Rosenbaum at the scene, in the ambulance and at Howard University Hospital, where he died.

Jordan told the judge that he had nothing to say. Standing next to him was his attorney, Michael Starr, who said that Jordan plans to appeal his conviction and had been advised not to comment.

With his client facing a mandatory minimum of 30 years, Starr could only urge the judge to impose a penalty less than life without possibility of release, available as a sentence because Jordan was found to have murdered a vulnerable person.

Starr argued that no one had claimed that Jordan intended to murder Rosenbaum or anyone else. Although that did not make the Rosenbaums' loss less painful, Starr said, it distinguished the death from a premeditated killing.

Jordan and Hamlin were charged within days of the attack. Each surrendered separately after surveillance footage showing them using stolen credit cards was broadcast on local television stations.

The attack on Rosenbaum was far from the first robbery they had committed, according to prosecutors. In a sentencing memorandum to the court, Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Haines said Hamlin testified before a grand jury that he and Jordan had carried out numerous crimes over a period of many months: an ATM holdup in Takoma Park, several supermarket purse-snatchings in Maryland and Virginia, and spraying a man with Mace during a robbery in Silver Spring.

They also noted the November 2005 beating and robbery of a retired police officer in Southeast Washington. Only after Rosenbaum's death was Jordan linked to that crime, which D.C. police detectives had not fully investigated.

"If they had done that, this all wouldn't have happened," the retired officer, James Rose, said after attending Jordan's sentencing.

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