Feds seek dramatically reduced sentence for NYC 'Molotov cocktail lawyers' in 2020 attack on NYPD vehicle

NYC police union says 'lowballing' sentence gives 'green light to other anti-police radicals'

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New York City federal prosecutors are seeking a dramatically reduced sentence of about two years for two Brooklyn lawyers accused of firebombing an NYPD vehicle during riots that erupted after George Floyd’s death in May 2020 as part of a new plea deal disclosed in court documents Tuesday. 

In a letter filed Tuesday, prosecutors for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York said Colinford Mattis and Urooj Rahman, both attorneys from Brooklyn, agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit arson. Under the deal, prosecutors agreed to recommend an 18- to 24-month sentence, but a judge could still impose the maximum sentence of five years behind bars. 

That’s down from the government’s previous plan to see a 10-year sentence with terrorism enhancement, discussed in an October 2021 Brooklyn federal court hearing during which Mattis and Rahman each previously pleaded guilty to one count of possessing and making a destructive device. 

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Colinford Mattis and Urooj Rahman are pictured in photos taken by U.S. authorities following their arrests in New York on May 30, 2020.

Colinford Mattis and Urooj Rahman are pictured in photos taken by U.S. authorities following their arrests in New York on May 30, 2020. (U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York/Handout via Reuters)

The original indictment included a 40-year mandatory minimum count and Mattis and Rahman risked a punishment of life imprisonment, according to N.Y. Daily News. The duo spent weeks in jail following their initial arrest on May 30, 2020, but have been on home confinement for most of the past two years. 

"There is absolutely no justification for lowballing the sentence for an anti-police terrorist attack," Patrick J. Lynch, president of New York City’s Police Benevolent Association, said in a statement. 

This image shows one of many NYPD vehicles burned in New York City during demonstrations that broke out on May 31, 2020, after George Floyd's death.

This image shows one of many NYPD vehicles burned in New York City during demonstrations that broke out on May 31, 2020, after George Floyd's death. (GHI/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

"It’s bad enough that these dangerous criminals have been allowed to sit at home for the past two years," Lynch added. "Handing them a below-guidelines sentence would give a green light to other anti-police radicals who seek to advance their cause through violence. The judge must reject this request."

Tuesday’s letter asks U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan to convert a May 18 hearing scheduled for debate over the terrorism enhancement to a change of plea hearing, saying prosecutors, noting the defendants’ lack of prior criminal history, plan to replace the original indictment, according to Law.com.

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The initial complaint alleges an NYPD surveillance camera recorded then 31-year-old Rahman tossing a Molotov cocktail at an unoccupied NYPD vehicle parked near the 88th Precinct in Brooklyn, New York, and then fleeing in a tan minivan. Mattis, then 32, was the alleged getaway driver. 

Officers pursued the minivan, and, while placing Rahman and Mattis under arrest, allegedly observed several precursor items used to build Molotov cocktails, including a lighter, a bottle filled with toilet paper and a liquid suspected to be gasoline near the passenger seat and a gasoline tank in the back.  

Law.com noted that because Rahman and Mattis were arrested when Donald Trump was still president and pleaded guilty days after U.S. Attorney Breon Peace was sworn in, their supporters had hoped President Biden’s appointee might have his Brooklyn federal prosecutors take a new look at the case.