- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 19, 2006

The cousin of a man on trial in the death of New York Times journalist David E. Rosenbaum yesterday testified against his relative because he said he needed to clear his conscience.

“If something is bearing on your conscience, you gotta tell the truth,” Michael C. Hamlin told a D.C. Superior Court jury during the trial of his second cousin, Percey Jordan Jr. “I thought to myself, ‘If I go in and tell the truth, I will see the light of day again.’ ”

Mr. Jordan, 42, is facing charges including felony murder and aggravated assault in the death of Mr. Rosenbaum. The 63-year-old journalist was taking a walk when he was attacked on Gramercy Street near his home in Northwest Jan. 6. He died two days later.

Hamlin, 24, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and other charges related to the incident, and his testimony against his cousin as part of the plea deal is a cornerstone of the prosecution’s case.

While on the stand yesterday, an admittedly nervous Hamlin said he went along with Mr. Jordan’s plan to rob someone out of peer pressure. He said the two were driving in Georgetown in Hamlin’s green Cadillac when Mr. Jordan said, “Let’s go get someone.”

“I gave him a look, but I agreed with it,” Hamlin testified, as Mr. Jordan looked on.

The pair ended up driving into Mr. Rosenbaum’s neighborhood, where they saw Mr. Rosenbaum taking a walk and wearing headphones. Hamlin said Mr. Jordan struck Mr. Rosenbaum on the head with a lead pipe while Hamlin took the journalist’s wallet.

“I see [Mr. Jordan] strike Mr. Rosenbaum on the head two times, and he hit him in the waist maybe three times,” Hamlin told the court.

After the robbery, the two suspects began driving away, but Hamlin said he was concerned that Mr. Rosenbaum had not gotten up.

“I just looked at my cousin, I stared at him and I said it wasn’t right,” Hamlin said. “I thought [Mr. Rosenbaum] was going to recover from his injuries. I didn’t think he was hit that hard.”

Hamlin also testified that the two drove to an Exxon station on Connecticut Avenue, where he used Mr. Rosenbaum’s credit card to fill up his car and Mr. Jordan bought a snack. The two also went to a CVS/pharmacy store and a Safeway store, with Hamlin using the journalist’s cards to make purchases and Mr. Jordan using the cards of a woman who was robbed in Silver Spring the same night.

Court documents have linked Hamlin and Mr. Jordan to a robbery in Silver Spring, but Judge Erik P. Christian has barred the details of that incident in court.

Hamlin said he initially turned himself in to police after hearing on the news that Mr. Rosenbaum died.

During cross-examination, defense attorney Michael Starr tried to discredit Hamlin by saying he changed the story he told to police several times.

Mr. Starr also said that Hamlin pinned the slaying on Mr. Jordan in order to avoid a longer prison sentence. He brought up a previous conviction of Hamlin’s in Maryland for accessory to robbery after the fact. In that case, Hamlin received a lighter sentence in exchange for testifying through a cooperative agreement, Mr. Starr said.

In the Rosenbaum case, Hamlin could have received life in prison before agreeing to the plea deal. He now faces a maximum of 60 years in prison when sentenced Dec. 19.

Mr. Jordan’s trial continues today.

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