New York Lawyers Who Firebombed Police Car in 2020 Riots Get Lighter Plea Deal

By Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Reporter
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. and world news. He is based in Maryland.
June 7, 2022 Updated: June 7, 2022

Two New York lawyers who were facing the possibility of 10 years in prison for firebombing a police vehicle during riots over the murder of George Floyd have reached a new plea deal that could significantly reduce their time behind bars.

Colinford Mattis and Urooj Rahman, the lawyers, appeared at a U.S. courthouse in Brooklyn on June 2 to withdraw earlier guilty pleas to a charge of unlawfully possessing Molotov cocktails. Then, they pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges.

The adjusted plea deal means that instead of facing up to 10 years in prison, the lawyers can receive no more than five years imprisonment.

Federal prosecutors agreed to the lighter plea deal and also agreed to recommend a prison sentence of just 18 to 24 months.

But U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan, a George W. Bush appointee, said he was not bound by the sentencing recommendations under the new plea deal. However, he said he would take it into account when he sentences the two attorneys this fall.

Rahman is set to be sentenced on Sept. 29. Mattis is set to be sentenced on Oct. 5.

They had originally pleaded guilty on Oct. 20, 2021.

Asked for comment, prosecutors pointed to a court document that outlined how the government and defendants had reached “an alternative resolution of the charges in this case” and that they were recommending sentences “far below” the 60 months advised by sentencing guidelines because of “the history and personal characteristics of the defendants.”

Some legal commentators were surprised by the development. Jonathan Turley, a professor at George Washington University Law School, said the shift represented “a breathtaking reduction” in charges and potential jail time.

Prosecutors initially hit the lawyers with seven counts, including possessing and making a destructive device and use of explosives. If the lawyers had been convicted on all charges, they faced decades in prison.

Epoch Times Photo
A woman identified as Urooj Rahman holds a Molotov cocktail in a still image from surveillance footage. ((US Attorney’s Office-Eastern District of New York)

According to charging documents, Mattis and Rahman, during riots on May 30, 2020, in the wake of Floyd’s death, hurled Molotov cocktails at New York City Police Department vehicles, striking one. Surveillance cameras recorded the crimes. Officers pulled the lawyers over after they hopped in a minivan and tried to flee. Officers found items for making the cocktails, including a bottle filled with liquid, a lighter, and a gasoline canister, inside.

“Their criminal behavior risked lives, destroyed equipment that exists to serve the community, siphoned response resources, and created a threat to those who had every right to safely assemble and express their opinion,” William Sweeney, the FBI’s assistant director in charge of the bureau’s New York Field Office, said in a previous statement.

In a superseding indictment entered shortly before the new plea deal was reached, authorities said Rahman and others used a messaging service to plan to set fire to one or more police vehicles and that both Mattis and Rahman bought gasoline, beer bottles, and other supplies.

The pair then traveled in a van owned by Mattis to the police station in the Fort Greene neighborhood of Brooklyn before hurling a cocktail at a police sedan there.

Rahman said in an interview with Loud Labs News before throwing the cocktail that “this protest is a long time coming” and “this [expletive] won’t stop unless we [expletive] take it all down, and that’s why the anger is being expressed tonight in this way.”

“This has got to stop. And the only way they hear, the only way they hear us is through violence, through the means that they use,” she also said.

Attorneys representing the defendants did not respond to requests for comment.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. and world news. He is based in Maryland.