March 28, 2008
By Jack Kemp (not the politician):
The Arizona Republic reports today that Phoenix has rejected the claim of the Gotbaum family in relation to 45 year old Carol Gotbaum, daughter-in-law of New York City Advocate - and Democrat - Betsy Gotbaum, who in turn, is the former wife of one-time New York municipal union (AFSCMEDistrict Council 37) president Victor Gotbaum. http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/0326gotbaum0326-ON.html
Carol Gotbaum, on her way to an alcohol rehabilitation program in Tucson, was sent unattended on a commercial flight where she landed in Phoenix, drunk and disorderly, screaming at police. Her death in a holding cell could have been either an attempt to loosen the bonds on her arms - or a suicide attempt. No one may ever know for sure. But if there is forensic evidence of a successful suicide attempt, I would advise the state to formally charge her with the crime of suicide to back up their legal and civil position.
When this incident first was reported in September 2007, I recall reading accounts that Mrs. Gotbaum had tried to commit suicide previous to her flight to Phoenix, but I cannot readily find documentation on the internet for that claim now.
Legalisms aside, what type of a family puts a very troubled alcoholic on a plane (where they serve liquor) with no one to watch over her? It is not known whether Mrs. Gotbaum purchased liquor on the plane or brought her own on the flight. The Arizona Republic article said her autopsy showed her to have a blood alcohol level of .24 percent, around three times the legal driving limit.
I would guess it is a liberal family who believes the State has become the Parent of Everybody and thus real family responsibility, particularly in a challenging situation, is not required because the State will take care of it. Thus, they sees no contradiction in sending this very ill woman across the US without a family member or a paid attendant/nurse. It is fair to say that they took the attitude that other people would be 100 percent responsible for the troubled Mrs. Gotbaum in transit, aided in this belief system by the knowledge that they could afford high priced lawyers to sue if they failed to live up to the family's perceived level of concern of what the All Encompassing State should provide. That public safety officers on the ground in Phoenix were more concerned about public safety than Mrs. Gotbaum's comfort was something not fully considered by her family.
Years ago, before she starred in "Sex and the City," the actress Sarah Jessica Parker once crowed to the press that she had accumulated $30 million. She later went on to voice her disapproval of George W. Bush in the press, saying that her working class family in Ohio, if they got laid off, would be forced to live on "a Bush administration's" meager unemployment checks. First of all, unemployment benefits are generally a state government program. Secondly, the press pointed out that Ms. Parker had just admitted that she would not share her wealth with her poor relatives in Ohio if they were in dire need, leaving them to the tender mercies of government programs. This is a perfectly reasonable attitude if you don't want to become an adult and assume responsibility for your family because you sincerely believe that is rightfully the job of the State, i.e., Big Brother (or Big Sister). Since no deaths of family members or pending lawsuits followed from this, Parker was loudly ridiculed in the media.
They say the Gotbaums will now sue. It is like the Menedez brothers, who killed their parents, suing their estate for lack of providing security in their home. I hope I haven't given another lawyer a new idea with that last remark.
In an ironic twist, there is this added detail:
"Meanwhile, an expert on the Gotbaum legal team faces criminal charges in Pittsburgh. Forensic pathologist Cyril Wecht, 77, a former Allegheny County coroner, is accused of 41 counts of theft and fraud stemming from charges that he used public employees to handle his private-consulting work.
A jury is deliberating the case."
END OF QUOTE
Their medical expert is on trial. This troubled family truly doesn't yet realize what type of value system they have bought into. This may not be the best paraphrasing of Shakespeare you ever read, but the fault lies not in the Phoenix officers who wear stars, but in themselves.
Here is an excerpt from the article:
City fires back at N.Y. family
The Arizona Republic
Mar. 27, 2008 12:00 AM
Phoenix officials rejected an $8 million wrongful-death claim from the family of Carol Gotbaum an hour after it was filed Wednesday, and they issued a strongly worded letter laying the blame on her husband for letting the troubled New York woman fly to Arizona alone.
Gotbaum, a 45-year-old mother of three, died in a Phoenix police holding cell at Sky Harbor International Airport last September after being taken into custody over a disturbance at a departure gate.
Shortly after 1 p.m. Wednesday, attorneys for her husband, Noah Gotbaum, filed the wrongful-death claim, a precursor to a lawsuit.
The claim alleges that police violated national police procedures and their own internal rules by using "excessive and unreasonable force on Carol, as if she was a dangerous criminal, rather than as the sick, intoxicated and vulnerable person she was." It also alleges that Gotbaum was improperly cuffed.
An hour after the claim hit the city clerk's desk, officials released an icy letter that marks a dramatic shift for Phoenix leaders, who, in the past, have called Gotbaum's death a tragic accident.
"So, with Carol reportedly screaming her hatred of 'American cops,' the Gotbaum family believes that these same hated officers should have put their arms around her shoulders . . . and given her some attention," wrote Stephen Craig, a city attorney. "One would ordinarily expect that role to fall to a spouse. But Carol was alone."
Gotbaum was from an influential New York City family. Her mother-in-law is an elected official in New York City, and her father-in-law was a prominent labor leader.
She was flying through Phoenix on her way to Tucson, where she had intended to enter a 30-day alcohol-rehabilitation facility. However, she missed her connection and, according to the claim, believed she would also be bumped from a later flight. She began screaming and running through the terminal, police say.
Video from airport-security monitors shows police pulling her through the airport as she apparently went limp and refused to cooperate. She was found slumped over in her cell minutes after she had been shackled and left alone. A Maricopa County medical examiner concluded that Gotbaum accidentally strangled herself with her restraints.
Gotbaum's blood-alcohol level was three times the legal limit for driving, the examiner wrote. She also had the prescription antidepressants Celexa and Cymbalta in her system, the county's report said.
Phoenix attorney Michael Manning, who represents Noah and his three children, said the city's harsh response to the claim indicates it is vulnerable.
"Whenever people in litigations head in that direction, that means that they are trying to divert attention away from the facts and circumstances," he said.
He added that, because the city has denied the claim, he will now proceed with a suit.
The city's letter didn't respond to several issues, including allegations about the use of force and how officers should deal with sick, intoxicated and mentally ill suspects, Manning said.
"That is the key to this case," he said. "(Did) they follow their own policies, procedures and training in how they dealt with her?"
Mayor Phil Gordon responded that the officers did follow the rules.
"Her death is a tragedy, and our hearts go out to the family, but our officers did nothing wrong," he said.
In denying the claim, the city disputes Manning's argument that Gotbaum was left in her cell for too long. City policy says prisoners can be left for up to 15 minutes, and Gotbaum was alone for less than that, the city argues.
"Fifteen minutes, according to our research, so far is probably one of the shortest times that there is for any police department," said Sgt. Andy Hill, a police spokesman.
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