On Sunday, a gunman dressed as a FedEx driver entered the New Jersey home of federal judge Esther Salas and shot and killed her 20-year-old son Daniel and critically injured her husband Mark Anderl, according to local officials. Salas, who was nominated to the federal bench by President Barack Obama and became the first Latina federal judge in New Jersey, was reportedly uninjured. And while speculation about the shooter’s motives has run rampant given some of the high-profile cases Salas has presided over, it now seems that the alleged shooter, Roy Den Hollander, was a notorious so-called “men’s rights activist” (read: misogynist asshole) known for filing lawsuits against policies that he claimed favored women and discriminated against men.
A pending lawsuit connects Salas to Den Hollander, who, according to court documents reviewed by the Daily Beast, had a case before Salas in which he was challenging the military draft’s policy of only conscripting men. Per law enforcement sources who spoke to the Daily Beast, Den Hollander “was found dead of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound hours later” in Rockland, New York.
Den Hollander, who regularly described himself as an “anti-feminist” and reportedly carried around a list of 41 examples of “discrimination against men in America,” made a noxious name for himself by filing a series of lawsuits in the 2000s against everything from ladies’ nights at clubs to Columbia University’s women’s studies classes to the Violence Against Women Act. “Now is the time for all good men to fight for their rights before they have no rights left,” his website proclaims.
This passage from a short New Yorker profile of him and his lawsuit against Manhattan clubs paints what feels like an accurate portrait of the kind of person he was:
The other night—nite?—Den Hollander was maneuvering his way past a maroon rope that marked the entrance to LQ, a dance club in midtown. It was a Salsa Wednesday: five bucks for ladies, ten for gents. Den Hollander shelled out and went inside, where he cruised the pink-lit periphery of a dance floor, sparsely populated with wrinkled couples practicing twirls. “Last time I was here for an after-work, you had younger people,” he said. “Problem is, the music’s so loud. When I hit on a girl, I need to be able to talk to her.” Forgoing a complimentary buffet, he made his way to the bar, where he ordered an Absolut vodka gimlet. “I tend to be attracted to black and Latin chicks, and Asian chicks,” he said, citing the influence of the twelfth-century Provençal troubadour Guiraut de Bornelh. “He said, ‘For a man, attraction goes through the eyes.’ ” Den Hollander was unfazed by the notion that, as a hound dog, his fight to defeminize clubs was perhaps counter to his self-interest.
The club was filling up as Den Hollander held forth on Title IX (“Sports isn’t a big thing to girls, but it’s a big thing to guys”), pickup tactics (“You sort of cut the person you’re after from the herd”), his personal finances (“Have you heard of the dot-com bubble?”), and his belief that “the Feminazis have infiltrated institutions, and there’s been a transfer of rights from guys to girls.” Too bad, it was suggested, that his lawsuit is set to be heard by Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum, herself a known female. But Den Hollander was not deterred. “What I think will happen,” he said, “is that clubs will reduce the price for guys and increase it for girls. Every guy will have ten or fifteen more dollars in his pocket, which the girls will then manipulate into getting more drinks out of him. If they drink more, they’ll have more fun, and so will us guys. And then when she wakes up in the morning she’ll be able to do what she always does: blame the man.”
Salas’s son Dan Anderl was about to enter his junior year of college at Catholic University in Washington, D.C. and was planning to follow in the footsteps of both of his parents and attend law school; her husband Mark is a criminal defense attorney and a former prosecutor.
Here’s how the Associated Press described Salas:
Salas, born in California to a Cuban immigrant mother and Mexican father, spent most of her childhood in Union City, New Jersey. After helping her family escape a devastating house fire, she acted as her mother’s translator and advocate, foreshadowing her career in law as she argued her family’s case to welfare officials, according to a 2018 magazine profile.
In the profile, Salas spoke of her son possibly following his parents into the legal profession.
“He’s been arguing with us since he could talk — practicing his advocacy skills,” Salas told New Jersey Monthly. “I don’t want to dissuade him, but I was pulling for a doctor.”
Salas, who was also a former public defender, notably presided over the 2014 criminal trial of the Real Housewives of New Jersey’s Teresa and Joe Giudice. More recently, Salas was appointed to oversee an ongoing case brought against Deutsche Bank that charged the bank with, as the Associated Press described it, making “false and misleading statements about its anti-money laundering policies and fail[ing] to monitor ‘high-risk’ customers including convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.”
That tenuous connection to Epstein, helped along by journalists’ irresponsible framing, which made sure to note the connection in their headlines about the attack on Salas and her family, has led some to believe with absolutely no evidence and several tin foil hats perched on their heads that this was an Epstein-related hit job. But if Den Hollander was the gunman as the Daily Beast has reported, then it becomes easy to suspect that the motivation for the shooting is something depressingly common, violent, and dangerous—a man’s irrational hatred of women, which has now tragically led to the death of Salas’ young son.
This is a developing story.