Was a federal judge targeted for assassination over a connection to a Jeffrey Epstein-related case? Or is this brutal attack just a horrible coincidence? Late last night, a gunman dressed as a FedEx delivery man targeted the family of Judge Esther Salas, whose son was killed and husband wounded in the attack. Only this week, Salas got assigned to a lawsuit against Deutsche Bank by its investors, in part because of its work with Epstein.
Lots of questions here and very few answers, so far:
A gunman shot the son of a federal judge at her home in New Jersey on Sunday, according to an official with knowledge of the situation. The Associated Press reported that he had died and that the judge’s husband also had been shot.
The judge, Esther Salas, was home at the time of the shooting at her residence in North Brunswick, N.J., but was not injured, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the authorities had not made any public statements.
Her son, Daniel Anderl, a college student, died in the shooting and her husband, Mark Anderl, was injured, Chief District Judge Freda Wolfson told The Associated Press.
Salas has handled high-profile cases in the past, having handled the tax-fraud cases of reality-TV stars Teresa and Joe Giudice. It’s the connection to the Epstein case, even an indirect connection, that seems intriguing:
On July 15, four days before the shooting, Salas was assigned to the ongoing lawsuit brought by Deutsche Bank investors who claim the company made false and misleading statements about its anti-money laundering policies. The suit also alleged the bank failed to properly monitor “high-risk” customers, including convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
The Epstein connection has lifted some eyebrows, but this seems distant enough that a motive for a shooting would be unlikely. The lawsuit isn’t specifically about Epstein at all, as Newsweek notes; it’s an investor fight more than anything else, and Salas wouldn’t make an obvious target for anyone’s ire. What possible gain would anyone have in targeting a judge in this lawsuit? It’s not impossible that the shooting was connected to it, as people can act irrationally, but it doesn’t seem very likely.
Still, someone went to some trouble to go after Salas or her family. Coming up with a disguise shows premeditation, and the lack of any other crime strongly suggests that the whole point was to murder someone. But was Salas the target? The gunman shot two other people but never attacked Salas, so perhaps she wasn’t the target. Her husband is a well-known defense attorney who might have made an enemy at some point. Or it might have been nothing more than a botched home-invasion attempt and the Salas/Anderl family was just unfortunate to be chosen for it.
The FBI announced last night that they are looking for “one subject”:
The FBI is investigating a shooting that occurred at the home of Judge Ester Salas in North Brunswick Township, New Jersey earlier this evening, July 19. We're looking for one subject & ask that anyone who thinks they may have relevant information call us at 1-973-792-3001.
— FBI Newark (@FBINewark) July 20, 2020
Does “one subject” mean they have an ID on the shooter, or just that only one shooter was involved? I suspect it just means the latter, but they might have some idea about who might have wanted either Salas or Anderl dead, too. They are almost assuredly combing through their case files as we speak to put together a suspect list, and they won’t be leaving anyone out yet — not even an Epstein connection, even if that does seem unlikely at the moment.
Update: The FBI reports that the suspect is dead, and that it’s unrelated to the Epstein case:
BREAKING: Suspect in shooting of judge's family found dead of apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound, multiple law enforcement sources tell @ABC News.
The deceased suspect was an attorney who had a case before Judge Salas in 2015, sources say. https://t.co/RaYCDRhFro
— ABC News (@ABC) July 20, 2020
So no hitman, no Epstein connection. But it’s still a tragedy, and a reminder that unbalanced people create risks for judges and law enforcement.