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Judge Clashes with Nathaniel Rowland’s Mother After Her Son’s Conviction in ‘Fake Uber’ Murder Trial: ‘You Are Not a Witness’


Arguments don’t often break out during sentencing hearings, but it happened Tuesday at the “fake Uber” trial. The mother of Nathaniel David Rowland, 27, continued to assert her son was innocent of murdering Samantha Josephson, 21. The judge would not hear it.

“I am not going to hear any claim of what he did or didn’t do,” Judge Clifton Newman said. “He is guilty of murder. He is guilty of kidnapping. He is guilty of possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime. And if you had any testimony that you wanted to give for the jury to consider, the trial was the time to do that. I’m not listening to any claim of what he did not do. You are not a witness.”

Josephson, a student at the University of South Carolina, left a get-together in the Five Points district of Columbia in March 2019 and entered Rowland’s black Chevy Impala believing it to be her Uber, prosecutors said. In this crime of opportunity, Rowland kidnapped Josephson, stabbed her about 120 times in the vehicle, and dumped her body near his family home, authorities said. His defense acknowledged Josephson’s blood was in the vehicle, but they argued that there is no proof he kidnapped or murdered her.

Jurors did not buy it.

Neither did Judge Newman, who sentenced Rowland to life in prison without parole in a hearing right after the guilty verdict. He credited the law enforcement investigation and called the defendant remorseless.

That is not the story Rowland’s mother Loretta Rowland told the court.

“The state has accused our son of a crime that he didn’t commit,” she said at the beginning of her son’s sentencing.

Newman immediately cut her off.

“Ma’am, I’m not going to hear any claim of innocence,” he said. “He has been convicted by the jury.”

Loretta Rowland described her son as a very caring young man who went through high school and college, and was active in his church. She continued to insist on his innocence.

“Now I know as a mother–and a mother knows her child–I know my son didn’t do this,” she said. “I know.”

“How do you know that?” said Newman.

“By the way I raised him,” she said.

“Pardon?” said the judge.

“By the way I raised him,” she said. “And when you’re a mother, and you’re a truly good mother, and you raised your child in the right way, you would know when that child had done something or did something right or wrong. I can. I can, and I know he didn’t do this.”

Rowland attorney Tracy Pinnock tried to smooth things over.

“So on behalf of Mr. Rowland’s family, I would just like the court to know that they have stood behind him 100 percent from the day of his arrest,” she said. “His mother, father, brother, and sisters all believe in him. They have believed from the beginning that the wrong person had been charged, and they still hold that belief today. So on behalf of the family, I would like your honor to know that that is the family’s position.”

Newman did not budge.

“That will not be taken into consideration in any form or fashion in deciding a sentence,” he said. “We’re in the sentencing phase of the trial.”

Rowland maintained his innocence in a brief statement to court, saying he wished the state did more to find the real killer.

“Your honor, I know I’m innocent, but I guess what I know and what I think really doesn’t matter,” he said.

This did not budge Newman, either. He handed down the maximum possible sentence.

Samantha’s family detailed their heartbreaking loss, mincing no words about the pain they felt. Her father Seymour Josephson expressed hatred for Rowland and said he still cannot watched videos of his daughter. He said he had contemplated suicide several times in the last 28 months.

“Someone always asks me, ‘What was Samantha like?'” he said. “The only way I can best describe Samantha is when we were at the vigil in South Carolina, and some of her sorority friends got up to speak. All of them described Samantha as a person who lit up a room, always smiling, and laughing, always a great friend and lit that room up when she entered it. When we got back to Robbinsville [in New Jersey], approximately 6 or 8 of her friends got up to speak at the vigil. Each one said that Sami was her best friend, and some could not get up to speak. That to me is a true testament of how great she is.”

Samantha’s mother Marci Josephson described the loss in visceral terms.

“We were thrown into this world of terror,” she said. “My world is now incomplete. Nothing but memories can fill the emptiness of Sami’s passing. I miss her precious voice, her giggles, and humor. I long to know that she closed her eyes and visualized her family in peace and not his face. I will never comprehend why he did what he did. I try not to dwell on how she died. Rather, I want to remember how she lived, but I’m not there yet. I had the gift of being Samantha’s mother for 21 years. I despise everything about him. His eyes glaring at my family during the trial told me everything I already knew about him. He’s pure evil.”

[Screenshots via Law&Crime Network]

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