A pair of New York City lawyers arrested for firebombing an NYPD vehicle during Black Lives Matter riots in 2020 agreed to a significantly more lenient plea deal offered to them by federal prosecutors last week.
Colinford Mattis, 34, and Urooj Rahman, 33, were originally hit with serious charges that could have landed them in prison for decades, WNBC-TV reported. But federal prosecutors recently entered a new plea agreement, reducing their recommended punishment to between 18 and 24 months in prison.
On Thursday in a courtroom in Brooklyn, the two defendants withdrew earlier guilty pleas for unlawfully possessing and making an explosive device — in this case, Molotov cocktails — and entered new guilty pleas for conspiracy to commit arson and possess an explosive device, according to Reuters.
The revised charges, which are punishable by a maximum of five years in prison, marked a stunning reversal from the tough-on-crime approach originally taken by prosecutors.
Brooklyn Lawyers Plead Guilty In Molotov Cocktail Attack www.youtube.com
Mattis and Rahman were arrested in New York City the night of May 30, 2020, for taking part in violent riots that broke out all across the country following George Floyd's death. According to charging documents, the pair made and attempted to distribute explosive devices to other rioters.
In particular, surveillance video captured Rahman throwing a Molotov cocktail into an unoccupied police car before fleeing in Mattis's vehicle. No one was injured in the attack, but the explosion caused serious damage to the vehicle. Police later found more explosives in Mattis's car and videotape subsequently showed him trying to hand them out to others.
A seemingly unapologetic Rahman would later tell reporters, "The only way they hear us is through violence."
Mattis, a corporate attorney, and Rahman, a human rights attorney, had their licenses to practice law taken from them as a result of the plea agreements. They also each agreed to pay $30,137 in restitution to New York City.
Reuters reported that the pair originally faced up to 45 years in prison under former President Trump's administration. Many lawyers condemned their conduct but others objected to the case's handling, arguing that the defendants were being unfairly treated as domestic terrorists.
Prosecutors reportedly decided to revise the charges in light of President Joe Biden's pledge to reform the criminal justice system and address systemic racism. In a court filing last month, they said the new terms reflected the "nature and circumstances of the offense and the histories and personal characteristics of these defendants."