Bad Lawyers

Lawyers Accused in Molotov Attack Face Up to Life in Prison on 7 Counts
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Federal prosecutors unveiled new charges against the two attorneys accused of tossing a Molotov cocktail at an NYPD vehicle during Black Lives Matter protests last month in New York City. The two are facing a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Princeton-educated Colinford Mattis and public interest lawyer Urooj Rahman were indicted Thursday on seven charges of using explosives, use of a destructive device, arson, use of explosives to commit a felony, making or possessing a destructive device, arson conspiracy, and civil disorder. 

The charges were announced by United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Richard P. Donoghue.


“Amid largely peaceful demonstrations taking place on the night of May 29, 2020, these defendants allegedly hurled Molotov Cocktails at NYPD vehicles without regard for the potentially deadly consequences,” stated Donoghue. “Such criminal acts should never be confused with legitimate protest. Those who carry out attacks on NYPD Officers or vehicles are not protesters, they are criminals, and they will be treated as such.”    

Court filings from the charges against Rahman and Mattis say video footage captured by an NYPD surveillance camera shows Rahman hurling a Molotov cocktail at an unoccupied police car parked near the 88th Precinct in the Fort Greene section of Brooklyn, then fleeing in a minivan. 

In the minivan, the NYPD found several component items for Molotov Cocktails, including a lighter, a beer bottle filled with liquid suspected to be gasoline and toilet paper, and a gasoline canister.

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“Violence, like that alleged here, not only endangers our NYPD officers but threatens the constitutional right of people to peacefully protest. These indictments by our federal partners reflect our joint condemnation of the kind of isolated acts a just society can never tolerate,” stated NYPD Commissioner Dermot F. Shea.

The arrest of the two attorneys—who were role models in their communities—was startling news for their friends and family. Both children of immigrant parents, they rose from poor Brooklyn neighborhoods to secure a long list of awards and campus leadership positions. 

Friends of Mattis and Rahman described the two lawyers as humble New Yorkers who worked their way to promising careers.

Mattis, 32, who was furloughed without pay from Pryor Cashman before the arrest, has been suspended by the law firm. 

The Ivy League-educated attorney had been a member of Brooklyn’s Community Board 5 but was removed by the president for lack of attendance, according to board chair Andre Mitchell.

According to the New York Times, his college friends were shocked by the news as he was known as a peacemaker on campus, the one who brought students of color to “white” parties.

Mattis’s attorney, Sabrina P. Shroff, said at a hearing, “The government tries to argue to this court that Mr. Mattis’s behavior—assuming that they can prove it beyond a reasonable doubt and conceding nothing at this point—is indicative of who Mr. Mattis is. They are clearly wrong.”

Rahman, 31, has a history of anti-police activism from her student days at Fordham Law. In an interview with Loudlabs News NYC, reported by The New York Post, an hour prior to the attack, Rahman justified the violence taking place against the police, saying, “it was understandable for people to be enraged about police brutality.”

“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 said.

“People are angry because the police are never held accountable,” she added.

In a hearing, an attorney for Rahman described her act as reckless and stupid, the Times reports. “This was lawless, this was stupid,” said the lawyer, Paul Shechtman. “This was two people swept up in the moment. But it is two people with no history of violence, no criminal history at all.”

If convicted on all counts, the Brooklyn attorneys face sentences of up to life imprisonment.



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