The son of a federal judge has been shot dead and her husband critically wounded after they were attacked at their home by a gunman dressed as a FedEx driver.
The attack happened at the home of Esther Salas, 51, an Obama-appointed District Court judge, in North Brunswick, New Jersey, on Sunday evening.
The judge’s 20-year-old son Daniel Anderl was killed, and her defense attorney husband Mark Anderl, 63, was critically injured.
The shooting came days after the judge was assigned a case with links to Jefferey Epstein, although there is not yet any suggestion that the attack is linked to her work.
The attack began at around 5pm when Mark Anderl answered the front door to the family home. He was shot several times.
Daniel, a student at Catholic University in Washington, D.C., then went to investigate the commotion and was fatally shot.
The perpetrator, believed to be a lone gunman, then fled the scene and is not yet in custody,
The attack happened at the home of Esther Salas, 51, an Obama-appointed District Court judge
Mark Anderl, 63, is reportedly in a critical condition in hospital after being shot several times
The judge and her family were the targets of an assassination attempt on Sunday evening at their home in North Brunswick Township, New Jersey
The FBI, U.S. Marshals, New Jersey State Police along with the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General have all been on the scene of the shooting throughout Sunday evening
FBI agents at the home of Esther Salas, 51, an Obama-appointed District Court judge, in North Brunswick, New Jersey, whose son was killed and husband was shot by an unknown shooter
The U.S. Marshals have also been called to provide the judge with a security detail, according to a law enforcement official
Francis ‘Mac’ Womack, the mayor of North Brunswick, New Jersey, said that Daniel was ‘shot through the heart’.
Mark is reportedly in critical but stable condition at Robert Wood Johnson Hospital in New Brunswick.
Judge Salas is believed to have been in the basement of the home during the shooting and was unharmed in the attack, according to NBC New York.
Neighbors told MyCentralJersey that police were knocking on doors asking for any security footage of the area.
‘They are still here, not just the police but the FBI, there are agents all over the place,’ one woman told the news outlet. ‘It’s unbelievable what is going on.’
Judge Esther Salas and her husband Mark Anderl are pictured in a photo from 2015
Another said: You don’t expect anything like this around here. We all know our neighbors, we all greet each other and it’s a quiet area.’
Crime scene tape could be seen stretching around the perimeter of the family home located in the Hiddlen Lake section of North Brunswick. The street had been closed off to traffic.
Last week, on July 15, the judge was assigned to a case that had links to late sex abuser Jeffrey Epstein.
The case Salas is presiding over involves as ongoing lawsuit brought by Deutsche Bank investors who claim the company made false and misleading statements about its anti-money laundering policies and failed to monitor ‘high-risk’ customers including convicted sex offender billionaire Jeffrey Epstein.
All manner of state and local law enforcement agencies were gathered outside the home on Sunday night
Crime scene tape could be seen stretching around the perimeter of the family home located in the Hiddlen Lake section of North Brunswick. The street has been closed off to traffic
But her highest-profile case in recent years was the financial fraud case involving husband-and-wife Real Housewives of New Jersey reality TV stars Teresa and Joe Giudice, whom Salas sentenced to prison for crimes including bankruptcy fraud and tax evasion.
Judge Salas’ landmark cases
Judge Salad highest-profile case in recent years was the 2014 financial fraud case involving husband-and-wife Real Housewives of New Jersey reality TV stars Teresa and Joe Giudice, whom Salas sentenced to prison for crimes including bankruptcy fraud and tax evasion. Salas staggered their sentences so that one of them could be available to take care of their four children.
In 2017, she barred federal prosecutors from seeking the death penalty against an alleged gang leader charged in several Newark slayings, ruling the man’s intellectual disability made him ineligible for capital punishment. Salas later sentenced the man to 45 years in prison.
This month, Salas has presided over an ongoing lawsuit brought by Deutsche Bank investors who claim the company made false and misleading statements about its anti-money laundering policies and failed to monitor ‘high-risk’ customers including convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
Salas staggered their sentences so that one of them could be available to take care of their four children.
In 2017, she barred federal prosecutors from seeking the death penalty against an alleged gang leader charged in several Newark slayings, ruling the man’s intellectual disability made him ineligible for capital punishment.
Salas later sentenced the man, the leader of the Newark Bloods street gang to 45 years in prison.
She has also dealt with cases involving members of the Grape Street Crips according to NJ.com. The case was connection with a long-running drug-trafficking network that was taken down by the FBI in 2015.
Judge Salas had received death threats in the past but as of Sunday night, authorities have not suggested the shootings are linked to any of her previous cases.
‘As a judge, she had threats from time to time, but everyone is saying that recently there had not been any,’ said Mayor Womack to ABC News, who is both friends with the judge and her husband.
‘No words can express the sadness and loss we share tonight as a community after senseless shootings of the husband and son of USDC Judge Esther Salas,’ she said.
The mayor said investigators are now ‘trying to get a hard make on the vehicle’ to try and track the suspect.
‘We commit to do all we can to support the family in this time, as well as all law enforcement agencies involved,’ Womack said.
The mayor noted how close the family appeared to be
‘He’s a very very exuberant, vibrant, one hundred percent pleasant person,’ Womack said to CNN. ‘He loves to talk about his wife, and he loves to brag about his son, and how his son would excel in baseball, and how he was doing down in college in Washington … I’m just very sorry to see him going through this.’
The U.S. Marshals have also been called to provide the judge with a security detail, according to a law enforcement official.
One of several high-profile trials Judge Salas has presided over includes the trial of former Real Housewife Teresa Giudice and her husband Joe in a case regarding financial fraud
Salas had sat a judge on the U.S. District Court for New Jersey in Newark, for nine years and was the first Hispanic woman to serve on the federal bench in the state.
Before that she spent five years as a magistrate judge, and nine years prior to that as a federal public defender before President Barack Obama nominated her to serve as a District Court Judge in 2010.
The daughter of a Cuban mother and a Mexican father, Salas spent part of her childhood on welfare after a fire destroyed her Union City apartment, according to The Globe.
Her husband, Mark Anderl also works in legal circles and served as an assistant prosecutor in Essex County, New Jersey for ten years before becoming a criminal defense attorney.
Salas met her husband when he was working as a prosecutor and she was working as a law school intern. He spotted her ‘getting fingerprinted’ and came over to talk to her, she told New Jersey Monthly in February 2018. ‘We’ve been inseparable since 1992,’ she said.
Judge Esther Salas is pictured with students in an August 2019 photo posted to Twitter
New Jersey’s politicians were quick to react including New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy
The daughter of a Cuban mother and a Mexican father, Judge Salas is well known in the community and often gives talks to school children and gives tours of the court
New Jersey’s politicians were quick to react.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said in a statement: ‘Judge Salas and her family are in our thoughts at this time as they cope with this senseless act. This tragedy is our latest reminder that gun violence remains a crisis in our country and that our work to make every community safer isn’t done.’
‘I know Judge Salas and her husband well, and was proud to recommend her to President Obama for nomination to New Jersey’s federal bench. My prayers are with Judge Salas and her family, and that those responsible for this horrendous act are swiftly apprehended and brought to justice,’ said Democratic New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez in a statement.
The FBI, U.S. Marshals, New Jersey State Police along with the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General have been on the scene of the shooting throughout Sunday evening.
‘The FBI is investigating a shooting that took place at the home of Judge Esther Salas in North Brunswick Township, NJ early this evening July 19. We are working closely with our state and local partners and will provide additional updates when available,’ the bureau said in a statement.
So far, police have not announced any arrests or named any suspects, however the FBI tweeted it was looking for ‘one subject’ in the shooting.
Anyone who thinks they may have relevant information should call the FBI in Newark at 973-792-3001.
So far, police have not announced any arrests or named any suspects, however the FBI tweeted it was looking for ‘one subject’ in the shooting
Judge who was the target of an assassination attempt had recently been assigned a case with links to Jeffrey Epstein
Judge Salas was assigned a case involving links to Jeffrey Epstein, pictured
Last week, Judge Salas was assigned a case with links to Jeffrey Epstein.
The case sees investors suing Deutsche Bank and its CEO Christian Sewing, alleging the bank made false and misleading statements before it agreed to pay a $150 million fine for compliance failures linked to disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein.
The lawsuit was filed on Wednesday in the U.S. District Court in Newark, New Jersey, and seeks unspecified damages.
It claims shareholders lost money because of Deutsche Bank’s dealings with Epstein, who was implicated in dozens of sexual abuse cases. He died last August at the age of 66 after being found hanging in a Manhattan jail.
New York regulators last week announced Deutsche Bank would pay the fine for ‘significant compliance failures’ over Epstein and two unrelated cases.
Deutsche Bank declined to comment on the lawsuit. Last week, it said the settlement showed ‘how important it is to continue investing in our controls and enhancing our anti-financial crime capabilities’.
The lawsuit also names as defendants Deutsche Bank’s finance chief James von Moltke and former CEO John Cryan.
The case sees investors suing Deutsche Bank and its CEO Christian Sewing, alleging the bank made false and misleading statements before it agreed to pay a $150 million fine for compliance failures linked to disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein
The named plaintiff is Ali Karimi, who lives in Connecticut, according to court documents.
Epstein, 66, was found hanged in his New York City prison cell in August 2019 after he was arrested on sex trafficking charges, and his death was ruled a suicide.
His former lover Ghislaine Maxwell, 58, was arrested on sex trafficking charges at a remote property in New Hampshire on July 2.
She was denied bail on Tuesday and learned she must stay locked up until her trial next summer after she pleaded not guilty.
Judge Salas is not involved with the current Maxwell case due before court in July 2021.
Ghislaine Maxwell, pictured with Epstein in 2005, was arrested on sex trafficking charges at a remote property in New Hampshire on July 2
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Justice Department brands NYC an ‘anarchist jurisdiction’ targeted for defunding
The Justice Department declared New York City, Portland and Seattle as ‘anarchist jurisdictions that can have federal funding ripped away for failing to clamp down on violence according to its criteria.
It listed the three cities as among those ‘that have permitted violence and destruction of property to persist and have refused to undertake reasonable measures to counteract criminal activity.’
The designation comes with billions of dollars in federal funding at stake, following President Donald Trump‘s order to make the designations amid violence and property damage that occurred during a summer of protests over the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police during his arrest.
Attorney General Bill Barr’s Justice Department is calling out New York, Portland, and Seattle as ‘anarchist jurisdictions’ with billions in federal funding at stake
The agency made the designation in a document it titled: ‘Memorandum on Reviewing Funding to State and Local Government Recipients That Are Permitting Anarchy, Violence, and Destruction in American Cities.’
It comes weeks before Election Day while President Trump campaigns across the country on ‘law and order.’
The White House Office of Management and Budget is to make further determinations in the coming month.
The financial stakes for a city of New York’s size are huge. Federal funding accounts for $7 billion in funding as it faces shortfalls amid the coronavirus, NBC New York reported.
Protesters clash with police during a rally against the death of Minneapolis, Minnesota man George Floyd at the hands of police on May 28, 2020 in Union Square in New York City
Protests turn into looting and destructions in Manhattan before first curfew imposed. Firefighter extinguished fire set by protesters on garbage recepticle Wide looting before curfew begins in NYC, New York, New York, 01 Jun 2020
The memo lists Portland (above), Seattle , and New York City
A protester kicks a police vehicle in an attempt to break its side mirror during a ‘Solidarity with Portland’ protest Saturday, July 25, 2020, in New York. The memo faults DAs in the city for failing to prosecute disorderly conduct
Police officers break up a fight between supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump and Black Lives Matter protesters outside the Oregon State Capitol building in Salem, Oregon, U.S. September 7, 2020
Mayhem and chaos in the CHAD/CHAZ zone of Seattle, at midnight of the day that police took back their precinct and arrested over 40 protestors who were occupying the Capitol Hill area, following the first set of riotous protests following the murder of George Floyd
The decision was accompanied by a statement from Trump loyalist Attorney General Bill Barr, who recently visited Chicago, another city Trump and the White House repeatedly single out for being saddled with violent crime.
‘When state and local leaders impede their own law enforcement officers and agencies from doing their jobs, it endangers innocent citizens who deserve to be protected, including those who are trying to peacefully assemble and protest,’ Barr said.
‘We cannot allow federal tax dollars to be wasted when the safety of the citizenry hangs in the balance. It is my hope that the cities identified by the Department of Justice today will reverse course and become serious about performing the basic function of government and start protecting their own citizens.’
In the case of New York, DOJ cites a 177 per cent jump in shootings in July compared to the prior year.
‘While the city faced increased unrest, gun violence, and property damage, the New York City Council cut $1 billion from NYPD’s FY21 budget,’ it noted.
It called out DAs in Manhattan and Brooklyn who have ‘declined to prosecute charges of disorderly conduct and unlawful assembly arising from the protests.’
It also called out Portland for the way it handled 100 nights of consecutive protests, and Seattle for allowing protesters to set up and maintain the ‘Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone’ (CHAZ) downtown.
The release states that they have ‘permitted violence and destruction of property to persist and have refused to undertake reasonable measures to counteract criminal activities.’
Trump has regularly gone after New York City and his surrogates tore into Mayor Bill DeBlasio at the Republican National Convention. DeBlasio and local officials painted ‘Black Lives Matter’ on Fifth Avenue in front of Trump Tower in July following protests.
DeBlasio fired back at both the designation and the move to strip away funding a press conference Monday.
‘It’s just another of president Trump’s games. It’s not based on facts and it’s insulting to the people of New York City,’ he said.
‘It’s all about race and it’s all about attempts to divide and to enthrall his base by attacking the other. It’s the only trick in his book. You’ve got to go back to the 1980s when he called for the execution of the Central Park Five,’ DeBlasio said.
‘Remember who taught him; Roy Cohn, Joe McCarthy’s right hand man. We’ve just got to get real about this guy. It is always divide and create hatred and move people to voter based on that hatred. He turns his attention to urban areas that he wants to associate with people of color, in another way he wants to associate with Democrats and progressives. He treats them as the other, he tries to convince people in the country that we are the problem and he will save his voters from all of us. There has been no president in history that has been this irresponsible and divisive. But it’s the only trick he knows,’ he said.
‘He has been threatening to take away our funding more times than I can count. We beat him in court every time or they just go away because they don’t have a leg to stand on.’
New York State Attorney General Letitia James also blasted the move – and indicated an imminent lawsuit.
‘This designation is nothing more than a pathetic attempt to scare Americans into voting for a commander-in-chief who is actually incapable of commanding our nation. President Trump failed to listen to scientists, failed to steer our economy through this pandemic, and has repeatedly failed to bring our nation together. The president should be prepared to defend this illegal order in court, which hypocritically lays the groundwork to defund New York and the very types of law enforcement President Trump pretends to care about. We have beat the president and the illegal actions of his DOJ in court before and have no doubt we will beat them again,’ she said.
The move follows a directive by President Trump for the agency to designate ‘anarchist jurisdictions.’
It was not immediately clear what federal funds the feds would hold up.
New York is a top recipient of counterterrorism funding for high-threat urban areas. It also receives funding for child welfare, food assistance, HIV, and other benefits. The state has long chafed at being among the top ‘donor’ states – those that pay out much more in taxes than it receives in benefits on a per capita basis as an economic powerhouse.
The move to have DOJ call out local police forces for changes to their police budgets comes after the Republican Party spent decades building the brand as the party of federalism and local control.
‘For the past few months, several state and local governments have contributed to the violence and destruction in their jurisdictions by failing to enforce the law, disempowering and significantly defunding their police departments, and refusing to accept offers of federal law enforcement assistance,’ Trump said earlier this month announcing the program.
‘To ensure that Federal funds are neither unduly wasted nor spent in a manner that directly violates our Government’s promise to protect life, liberty, and property, it is imperative that the Federal Government review the use of Federal funds by jurisdictions that permit anarchy, violence, and destruction in America’s cities,’ said.
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Mother, 23, reveals drop of MILK got onto newborn baby’s lungs and he suffered three cardiac arrests
A mother has told of the emotional moment she said goodbye to her baby son after a drop of milk got into his lungs and he suffered three cardiac arrests.
Bertie Spencer choked on his bottle and inhaled the liquid, but his mother Tonicha, 23, from Grantham, Lincolnshire, thought nothing of it until he started to turn blue half an hour later.
The 17-day-old baby boy was rushed to hospital on July 21, where he suffered three cardiac arrests and Tonicha and his father, David, 25, were told to say their goodbyes.
The liquid had made its way to his lungs had stopped him breathing properly, starving him of oxygen and making his heart stop pumping.
But miraculously, as mother-of-two Tonicha urged him not to die, his heart rate picked up and against all the odds Bertie pulled through.
Tonicha Spencer, 23, from Grantham, Lincolnshire, has told of the emotional moment she said goodbye to her miracle baby son, Bertie, pictured, after a drop of milk got into his lungs and he suffered three cardiac arrests
Little Bertie Spencer choked on his bottle and inhaled the liquid, but Tonicha thought nothing of it until he started to turn blue half an hour later. Pictured: Bertie in hospital after his ordeal
Doctors told his astonished family that little fighter Bertie was a ‘miracle’.
Bertie’s mother Tonicha, a former customer services advisor, said that he had been suffering from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) prior to the incident, something which is very common in newborns, and was often sick after taking a bottle.
She had taken him to the doctor the day before the choking incident to have his chest checked – but after listening to Bertie’s chest the doctor deemed it clear and diagnosed the baby with bad reflux.
The mother who also has a daughter Darcie, one, said: ‘You never think this sort of thing could ever happen to you.
‘When we were in hospital, I remember thinking that it’s the sort of thing you see on TV.But I just feel so lucky that Bertie made it. We didn’t think he was going to survive at all.
Doctors told his astonished family that little fighter Bertie was a ‘miracle’. Pictured: Tonicha and David with Bertie and their daughter Darcie
‘The doctors just keep telling me Bertie is a miracle and they can’t believe he’s done so well, but it’s all down to the doctors and nurses that saved him. I owe them my life, because they saved his.
What is gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)?
When a baby or child has gastro-oesophageal reflux, the food and drink travels down the foodpipe as normal.
However, some of the mixture of food, drink and acid travels back up the foodpipe, instead of passing through to the large and small intestines.
As the food and drink is mixed with acid from the stomach, it can irritate the lining of the foodpipe, making it sore.
This is gastro-oesophageal reflux disease, which is common in the first few weeks and months of life, as the sphincter (ring of muscle) at the base of the oesophagus has not matured yet.
Some children also breathe some of the mixture into the windpipe (aspiration), which can irritate the lungs and cause chest infections.
It is believed this particular condition is what caused milk to enter Bertie’s lungs after he vomited following a feed.
‘Because of them, we’ll be able to watch him grow up, and Darcie still has her beloved younger brother. I can never put into words how grateful I am.’
Bertie was born healthy, aside from the very common reflux condition. He was just 17-days-old when he choked on his bottled milk, causing him to inhale it, on July 21.
Initially his mother was not overly concerned but half an hour later his lips and mouth started to turn blue, before the colour spread across his face.
‘I just felt so sick with worry – I kept telling David that something wasn’t right,’ she explained. ‘We rang an ambulance, and as soon as the paramedics arrived and told us he urgently needed to get to A&E, we realised how serious it was.’
Tonicha rode in the ambulance with Bertie, while David, a food supply factory worker, dropped her daughter Darcie, then aged 20 months, at her grandparents.
He then joined Tonicha at Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham, just as Bertie went into his first cardiac arrest, eight minutes after arriving.
The milk on his lungs stopped him breathing properly so his brain was starved of oxygen – causing the arrests.
‘It all happened at once,’ she said. ‘I was asked to leave the room just as about fifteen doctors and nurses sprinted in.
‘I was panicking and hysterical because I had no idea what was going on – but that was the moment he first went into cardiac arrest.
‘I just kept repeating ‘is he going to survive?’, but nobody could tell me, because they didn’t know the answer.’
After being in cardiac arrest for eight minutes, doctors managed to start little Bertie’s heart again.
He then suffered two more attacks, lasting three minutes each, and a nurse told the family they didn’t know what was going to happen.
‘I could barely believe what was happening. I was hysterical. I was in total shock,’ said Tonicha.
An MRI scan showed Bertie’s brain had been starved of oxygen during the arrests, and there was some damage to the part that controls movement. But despite his ordeal, Tonicha said he still moves like a normal baby
The family, including Tonicha’s mum, Claire Fitt, 46, were finally allowed in to see Bertie – but they were told to prepare themselves for the worst, and say their goodbyes.
What is cerebral palsy and how common is it in the UK?
Cerebral palsy is a neurological disorder that affects a patient’s movement, motor skills and muscle tone.
It is the name for a group of lifelong conditions that affect movement and co-ordination and is caused by a problem with the brain that develops before, during or soon after birth.
It affects around one in 400 children born in the UK to some extent.
In the US, approximately 8,000-to-10,000 infants are born with the condition each year.
The symptoms of cerebral palsy are not usually obvious just after a baby is born. They normally become noticeable during the first two or three years of a child’s life.
Symptoms can include:
- delays in reaching development milestones – for example, not sitting by 8 months or not walking by 18 months
- seeming too stiff or too floppy
- weak arms or legs
- fidgety, jerky or clumsy movements
- random, uncontrolled movements
- walking on tiptoes
- a range of other problems – such as swallowing difficulties, speaking problems, vision problems and learning disabilities
The severity of symptoms can vary significantly. Some people only have minor problems, while others may be severely disabled.
Speak to your health visitor or a GP if you have any concerns about your child’s health or development. There’s currently no cure for cerebral palsy, but treatments are available to help people with the condition be as active and independent as possible.
Tonicha added: ‘He was lying on his bed completely naked, with wires sticking out of him while people did CPR. It felt like I was watching through somebody else’s eyes.
‘Even though he was unconscious, and wouldn’t have been able to understand me anyway, I felt like I should talk to him, so I did.’
At the sound of Tonicha’s voice, Bertie’s heart rate began to pick up.
She said: ‘That was surreal. I remember at one point saying to him “Come on Bertie, you can’t die yet! We’re seeing Nanny and Grandad next week!” As his heart rate picked up, I just kept talking.’
He became stable, and after six hours in A&E, was moved to the intensive care unit, where he spent five days fighting for his life.
‘I had been asking constantly if he would be ok, because I had no idea,’ she said. ‘Finally, after five days, a doctor said to me that if he had to put money on it, his bet would be that Bertie would survive and get to go home.
‘Although he made it clear there was no guarantee, when he said that, I just burst into tears.
‘It was all I wanted to hear and it meant the world to me. I just needed something to give me hope.’
An MRI scan showed Bertie’s brain had been starved of oxygen during the arrests, and there was some damage to the part that controls movement.
Medics said he might have developed cerebral palsy, and struggle to walk or talk, but only time will tell.
Bertie had also sustained a severe chemical burn in his groin area, after an emergency adrenaline line put into his vein during his cardiac arrest leaked onto his skin.
Initially, medics feared they’d have to amputate his right leg, but instead he has had a successful skin graft.
Tonicha added: ‘Whatever the outcome was, the doctors and nurses did what they had to do to save my baby.
‘The doctors couldn’t tell us how severe his cerebral palsy will be when he’s older, but he’s doing well, which is a good sign.
‘They said he might not be able to drink properly or smile – but he’s already started drinking from a bottle again, and he smiles every day.
‘We don’t know how he’ll walk yet, but he moves like a normal baby, so it’s encouraging. Seeing him now, you’d never suspect anything was wrong with him! ‘Bertie really is a miracle, and we’re so proud of him.’
Now, a friend of the family has set up an online fundraiser on Go Fund Me for the family, to help cover the costs of building a sensory room for Bertie.
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Off-road biker, 21, is jailed for nine years for killing ‘peacemaker’ with single punch
An off-road biker has been jailed for nine years for killing a ‘peacemaker’ with a single punch after he asked him to stop ‘dangerous’ nuisance riding near children.
James Rowley, 21, attacked Joe Higgins, 41, in front of youngsters in Radford, Coventry as the victim returned home from celebrating St Patrick’s Day on March 17.
The father-of-two fled the scene of the killing, where he had been noisily ‘showing off’ on grassland despite having no licence or insurance, and was arrested two days later.
Mr Higgins, who lived in Bedford but was originally from Coventry, died in hospital a day after suffering a head injury.
Joe Higgins, 41, was attacked in front of children in Radford, Coventry, as he returned home from celebrating St Patrick’s Day on March 17
James Rowley, 21, killed Mr Higgins with one punch before fleeing the scene of the crime
Rowley initially claimed to have acted in self-defence but later pleaded guilty to unlawful killing at Warwick Crown Court.
Judge Sylvia de Bertodano was told Rowley, who also admitted dangerous driving, had previously been given a referral order as a teenager for an assault in which his victim lost consciousness.
Passing sentence today, the judge said he had given police a false account of what happened as Mr Higgins returned home from celebrating St Patrick’s Day with his cousin.
She said: ‘You were riding your motorbike in a way that was clearly dangerous and aggressive.
‘You shouldn’t in fact have been driving it at all as you had no licence and no insurance.
‘Having ridden it on the wrong side of the road and through a red light… you arrived at Jubilee Crescent. You started riding the bike on the grassed area there.
‘The bike had no lights and the danger you were causing was obvious – so obvious that a bystander called the police.
‘It was this behaviour that caused Joe Higgins to come over and speak to you.’
Addressing the attack itself, the judge added: ‘He tried to speak to you politely and tell you to stop.
‘In the words of his brother, he was being a good citizen. You however refused to listen. You revved the engine and asked him if he ‘wanted to get battered’.
‘You then got off the bike with the clear intention of inflicting violence on Joe Higgins.
‘You were described by one witness as bouncing on your toes like a boxer. Joe Higgins had his hands down.
Rowley initially claimed to have acted in self-defence but later pleaded guilty to unlawful killing at Warwick Crown Court
‘One witness described it as the most vicious punch he had ever seen.
‘The punch caused him to fall to the ground and hit his head, whereupon you rode off dangerously and at speed, taking, as you went, his hat.’
The judge, who ordered Rowley to serve a two-year driving ban after his release from prison, added: ‘On the facts of this case, the defendant was behaving in an aggressive manner well before he came across Joe Higgins.
‘It [the punch] was sufficiently hard to bring a 17-stone man to the ground, a man who was acting as peacemaker, had his hands down and was unable to react to the blow.’
Prior to sentence, defence QC Kevin Hegarty, offering mitigation, said Mr Higgins had become concussed because he had hit his head on the ground.
Victim impact statements were also read to the court, including from the victim’s partner and his twin brother Chris Higgins.
In his statement, Mr Higgins described his brother, a stepfather to three children, as a ‘gentle giant’ and true gentleman who was kind, caring and fun.
‘At 41 he had his whole life ahead of him,’ Mr Higgins said of his sibling.
‘The happy future that Joe had planned has been cruelly taken away from him.’
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