"Two weeks ago, my life as I knew it changed in an instant, and my family will never be the same," Judge Esther Salas said in a video statement.
The federal judge whose son was killed by a misogynistic lawyer spoke out Monday for the first time about the shooting, describing the horror that unfolded as her only child ran to answer the door and a "madman" opened fire.
The judge, Esther Salas, also issued a call for increased privacy protections for federal judges, saying the death of her 20-year-old son, Daniel, should not be in vain. Her husband, Mark Anderl, who was shot three times, remains hospitalised.
"Two weeks ago, my life as I knew it changed in an instant, and my family will never be the same," Salas said in her video statement. "A madman, who I believe was targeting me because of my position as a federal judge, came to my house."
She described a weekend celebration at their New Jersey home for Daniel's 20th birthday that included several of his friends from Catholic University of America, who had stayed overnight.
"The weekend was a glorious one," Salas added, choking back tears. "It was filled with love, laughter, and smiles."
She and her son were in the basement talking when the doorbell rang.
"Daniel looked at me and said, 'Who is that?'"
"And before I could say a word, he sprinted upstairs. Within seconds, I heard the sound of bullets and someone screaming, 'No!'"
Daniel's final act, she said, was to protect his father from the man she described as a monster.
"He took the shooter's first bullet directly to the chest," she said. "The monster then turned his attention to my husband and began to shoot at my husband, one shot after another."
Salas said the man, believed to have been Roy Den Hollander, who later killed himself, was carrying a FedEx package — an apparent ruse to coax the family to open the door.
Until that moment on July 19, it had been an otherwise routine Sunday: Salas and her husband went to church, and Daniel, who was about to start his junior year in college, caught up on some sleep after his friends left for the weekend.
She said Den Hollander had compiled a dossier on her and her family, including their address in North Brunswick, New Jersey, and the church they attended.
Days before, Den Hollander, 72, had travelled by train to San Bernardino County, California, where he shot and killed a rival men's rights lawyer, Marc E. Angelucci, at his home, authorities said.
Hours after the shooting in New Jersey, police found Den Hollander's body off a road in upstate New York with a single gunshot to the head.
Den Hollander was a self-described "anti-feminist" with a record of virulently misogynistic and hateful writing. He represented the most extreme element of the men's rights movement whose online discussions in recent years have become increasingly menacing toward women.
He was apparently angry at Salas for not moving quickly enough on a lawsuit he had brought challenging the constitutionality of the male-only draft.
Salas said she understood that judges' decisions would be scrutinised.
"We know that our job requires us to make tough calls, and sometimes those calls can leave people angry and upset," she said. "That comes with the territory and we accept that.
"But what we cannot accept is when we are forced to live in fear for our lives because personal information, like our home addresses, can be easily obtained by anyone seeking to do us or our families harm."
She called for a national conversation on ways to safeguard the privacy of federal judges.
Salas said it was a "complicated issue," but urged those in power to "do something to help my brothers and sisters on the bench."
She specifically cited companies that sell personal details, which she said "can be leveraged for nefarious purposes."
Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, who recommended Salas for the federal bench, said he was drafting legislation with Senator Cory Booker to keep personal information about federal judges outside of the public domain.
"No parent should have to go through the devastating tragedy that she has," Menendez said of Salas, who was appointed in 2011 after being nominated for the lifetime position by President Barack Obama.
"If a federal judge has to worry that his or her decisions at the end of the day could cause a loss of the life of a loved one, then I'm not sure how that full independence — even when one works hard to maintain it — can ever be achieved," Menendez said Monday during a news conference on an unrelated topic. "No federal judge should have to worry about the writs that they issue, the decisions that they make."
After investigators found Den Hollander's body, they discovered a list in his rental car that named more than a dozen possible targets, including Salas and three other female judges. The list also included the names of two oncologists; Den Hollander had told a former rugby teammate that he was dying from a rare form of cancer.
His beliefs teetered between the views of self-proclaimed anti-feminists and men's rights activists. The final version of his autobiography, a 1,698-page manifesto, ended with a vow to fight "feminazis" until his last breath.
Den Hollander's connection to Salas and Angelucci involved similar cases.
In 2015, Den Hollander brought a legal challenge to the male-only military draft that was assigned to Salas in Newark federal court.
Angelucci had filed a similar lawsuit in a different jurisdiction. A federal court in Houston ruled in Angelucci's favor in February 2019, angering Den Hollander, who complained in his online writings that Salas was moving too slowly.
Den Hollander also had a photo of New York state's chief judge, Janet M. DiFiore, in his car, according to her spokesman, Lucian Chalfen.
A former federal judge in Manhattan, Shira A. Scheindlin, agreed that access to judges' home addresses and phone numbers too often puts them and their families at risk. She said she supported Salas' call for greater safeguards at a time when private details are often only a few computer clicks away.
"It only takes one crazy person," said Scheindlin, who resigned from the federal bench in 2016.
In 2005, a Chicago federal judge's husband and mother were killed at home by a delusional man whose lawsuit had been dismissed by the judge, Joan Humphrey Lefkow. In 1988, a New York federal judge, Richard J. Daronco, was shot and killed as he worked in the garden of his home in Pelham, New York. Both of the killers later took their own lives.
Scheindlin recalled getting threatening telephone calls after she issued a controversial ruling in 2013 rejecting New York City's former stop-and-frisk policy, which she had concluded was "indirect racial profiling."
"This is getting to be a very serious problem," Scheindlin said, "and a very scary thing for judges."
Written by: Tracey Tully
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