- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Here is to the grieving family members of slain New York Times journalist David E. Rosenbaum receiving every last penny of their $20 million lawsuit against the city, hospital officials and emergency workers.

Here is hoping they turn the system upside down and encourage a new way of thinking.

There is no excuse for the way Mr. Rosenbaum was treated after he was robbed and beaten by two thugs trolling for a victim in the Chevy Chase neighborhood of the District last January. There is no excuse for the system adding a potentially fatal insult to a serious injury. There is no excuse that it took a neurological team four hours to evaluate Mr. Rosenbaum. There is no excuse that it took another four hours before he was placed on an operating table.

Perhaps those hours would have been critical to saving Mr. Rosenbaum’s life.

Perhaps he would be around today if rescue workers had not made the wrongful determination that Mr. Rosenbaum was merely a drunken old man.

You almost can hear the snickering on that night. You almost can hear someone saying, “Yeah, let him sleep it off. He’ll be fine.” But Mr. Rosenbaum was not inebriated. He was gravely hurt because of two thugs, and he was fighting for his life. And despite the negligence, despite being treated as if he had stopped by the hospital to receive a couple of stitches, he fought for two days before succumbing to his injuries. His family is having to come to terms with what amounts to two nightmares: the nightmare of two thugs coming into their lives and a system that seemed grossly careless and insensitive at best.

Solace will not come easily for them, if ever.

One of the thugs was sentenced to 62 years in prison last week; the accomplice received 26 years earlier in the month after agreeing to testify against his older cousin. The accomplice, being 24, has a reasonable expectation of seeing freedom again, difficult as that prospect is to accept.

“I can’t imagine a sentence that would fill this crime,” Mr. Rosenbaum’s son, Daniel, said last week.

His sentiment is understandable. He lost a father in heinous fashion, and nothing can repair that hole in the heart, not a sentencing and not a lawsuit.

David Rosenbaum went out for a post-dinner walk in what is considered one of the safest neighborhoods of the city, only to be relieved of his wallet by the perpetrators and then beaten with a heavy plastic pipe.

They beat a 63-year-old man who was hardly a threat to them; beat him for the joy of it, the heck of it; beat him because they could.

So now his medical care is a legal question. It is the question of whether the beating was the sole cause of Mr. Rosenbaum’s death or whether the arrogance of the system was a contributing factor. It is a reasonable question of a wounded family.

The actions of city officials indicate a measure of responsibility. An emergency worker was fired after the city’s investigation, and Mayor Adrian M. Fenty has replaced the chief of the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department.

Mr. Rosenbaum’s family also says that police failed to properly investigate a similar attack that could have involved the two perpetrators more than a month before their assault on the journalist.

That could be in a city ever accustomed to home invasions in broad daylight, nonviolent muggings and petty thievery — offenses that occur in the so-called better neighborhoods. Most merit nothing more than a line of agate in the weekly roundups of neighborhood newspapers, and perhaps low priority from a besieged police department.

It takes the utterly unthinkable — a robbery, a beating, a death and a breakdown in the system — to get our attention.

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