We previously discussed the arrest of Samantha Shader, 27, and her sister, Darian, 21, in one of the Molotov cocktail attacks on police in New York City. There is now a twist where a third individual is being charged as an accomplice. Samantha Shader reportedly blamed a black male for giving her the explosive. The FBI however has alleged that the accomplice was a friend from upstate New York who is white. At issue is a Bulleit whiskey bottle that Samantha Shader is accused of throwing at a police van on May 30th. The allegations against three African Americans by a self-described social justice activist is a rather unexpected twist in an already bizarre case. It could present an difficult issue for the defense in pre-trial admissibility challenges.
Shader’s guilt is not in doubt given pictures of her lighting the bottle (which failed to explode on contact). The filings recount how a witness described “a glass Bulleit bourbon whiskey bottle” that “Samantha Shader use[d] as a vessel for the Molotov cocktail that she threw at the NYPD vehicle.” She gave detailed descriptions of three African Americans who gave her the Molotov cocktail as a “thicker guy” with hair in “skinny dreads” of different colors, a second smaller man wearing a hat, and a thin woman with “poofy” hair in a ponytail. Shader admits to throwing the explosive but said that she felt pressure from the three black protesters that she should take it “because she was the only white person in the area.”
The FBI alleges however that, when the searcher her car, they found bottles with a note with the fingerprints Amerman. The note says “I found a few more glass bottles Than I thought I had, Though still not many. Wish I had more,” he wrote. “BE SAFE Please. Really[.] Good Luck, – Love Tim.”
The note captures the conflicted mindset of allegedly supplying bottles for Molotov throwing with a wish to “be safe.” The FBI has detailed extreme social media commentary from both Shader and Amerman. Three days before the attack, Amerman posted “Riots DO work,” and called cops “Tax collectors with guns. Wife beaters. Murderers.” He noted that he wanted to go on the “ride to NYC to get saucy,” but “I kitted out some others.”
For her part, Shader declared “Black people should be allowed to burn down the country they built for Free.” Yet, she allegedly blamed black people for the Molotov cocktail used in her crime.
Amerman will face charges of conspiracy to commit civil disorder. Shader is facing more serious charges that allow for a life in prison sentence.
In an already difficult criminal case, the implication of black people in the crime could have a major prejudicial impact on a jury for Shader. However, as a statement to police, it would be admissible so long as there is no constitutional violation. Assuming that Shader was appropriately read her rights, the statement could be cited as her effort to shift blame. However, it is most useful in poisoning a jury in how it views Shader. The problem is that, even if the statement were held as inadmissible in an in limine motion, it could still interfere with the ability of Shader to take the stand. Even inadmissible evidence can sometimes be used for impeachment or rebuttal. Thus, if Shader were to argue that she was motivated by her commitment to racial justice, prosecutors could argue that her false allegations against three African-Americans is relevant rebuttal evidence.
As for Amerman, he now appears to have admitted to supplying the bottles but it does not sound like he built the devices but may have only supplied the bottles. Yet, it is hard to imagine what a collection of bottles would be used for beyond Molotov cocktails beyond transporting empty bottles from upstate New York to be thrown in New York City. Moreover, the FBI references messages to “go down to the City to cause some hell.”
Amerman could be in an excellent position for a deal. He has no prior criminal history. If he gives incriminating evidence against Shader, it could show a long premeditation and planning element that would justify a longer sentence. He has an incentive to deal with there is the ability for prosecutors to seek up to ten years on one count of civil disorder and one count of civil disorder conspiracy. He faces up to 10 years in prison.