BROOKLYN — In a dramatic hearing on Thursday, a federal judge in Brooklyn sentenced a corporate lawyer to a year in prison for throwing Molotov cocktails at police cars during the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests. From New York University – should have made him a peacekeeper, not agitator.
“You are not oppressed,” Brian M. Cogan, senior judge for the Eastern District of New York, told Colinford Mattis, expressing admiration for what the 35-year-old has accomplished in his life.
The ruling was the culmination of a two-and-a-half-year legal battle in which Mattis and his co-defendant Uruj Rahman, now 33, have become a symbol of the country’s political turmoil and division. Across two presidential administrations, their lawsuits played out with conflicting obligations, not just on social media, but in public and in court.
to the Heritage Foundation they were “terrorists”,” Meanwhile, New York magazine allowed them to You could be considered a “civil rights hero, even a martyr.” daily mail called them “awakened lawyers”On the New York Times page, they were described by a guest contributor as Victims of ‘deep-rooted injustice’.
The Justice Department, under then-President Donald Trump, tried to put them away for at least 45 years.they end up plead guilty to the arson plot last summer. Both lose their license in law.
“You’re a good person. No questions,” Corgan told Mattis, dressed in a blue shirt and tan khakis. Observation — The judge asked for a moment of quiet reflection as a final opportunity to consider a case that has become a topic of national interest. Racism and the police, the referendum on privilege and justice, not to mention the coronavirus pandemic, seem to have brought those and other forces into inevitable public confrontation.
The facts of the case were never disputed. But as the country continues to struggle with racial and social divisions, what these facts mean remains highly uncertain. Mattis and Rahman, two seemingly promising lawyers, said in court that they allowed anger to consume them.
“I’m going to spend the rest of my life every day trying to fix this.” Rahman said in her sentencingShe will spend 15 months in prison. Standing before the same judge three months later, Mattis expressed the same sentiment: “I ruined her life with what I did that night,” he said Thursday.
Succumbing to anger in a time of profound division, fear and isolation, these two men were perhaps no different than many other Americans frustrated by the misguided direction of society. Political violence remains rare, but is rising. Most of the time, The perpetrator is a far-right extremistIn this case, the criminal was a progressive, which may be why the case received national attention.
Rahman, a social justice activist working in housing law, threw a bottle of gasoline-filled Bud Light at an abandoned New York Police Department vehicle in Brooklyn’s Fort Green neighborhood in 2018. In the early hours of May 30, 2020, social justice protests erupted in New York and many other cities large and small across the country.
Matisse drove the car. However, it was he who bought the gasoline used to make the fiery Molotov cocktail that Rahman threw.
While generally peaceful, this summer’s jaded Black Lives Matter protests at times escalated into violence, mostly involving the destruction of private property.At the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021. Rahman and Mattis are even a few defendants running for public office, while a few defendants have gained some publicity in the pro-Trump riots that have taken place. Same caution.
Corgan’s apparently genuine compassion for Mattis, who is raising three foster children after his mother died of uterine cancer, says violent demonstrations following George Floyd’s murder need lawyers to monitor police misconduct. I was overwhelmed by the feeling that I was…instead of participating in my own cheating.
“We really needed you. was accused of using overly aggressive tactics when confronting protesters in late May and early June.
Mattis’ defense attorney, Sabrina P. Shroff, alleged that her client’s alcohol abuse and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) caused him to be unable to think clearly. She said late-night phone calls with clients can be something of an ordeal.
“He just sounded drunk,” Shroff said.
Corgan seems unconvinced by the appeals to nerve divergence and substance abuse, and points to Mattis’ educational and professional record as evidence that he had more inner fortitude than Shroff suggested. bottom.
Still, the proceedings were informed by the knowledge that a worse fate might have been in store for Mattis and Rahman.In the broadest sense, it was the 2020 presidential election that saved them.
Within hours of the arrest, the case was transferred from state to federal court. This was an unusual measure for a crime that did not involve bodily harm or loss of life. The police station where Van Lahmann and Matisse were set on fire had already been destroyed. Trump’s Justice Department clearly wanted to set an example for this duo. Indictment June 11 It turned out that it was filed against them.
Prosecutors also fought to keep the two in pretrial detention and campaigned on behalf of the two jailed. “The Trump administration is wielding the punitive power of the system against Colin and Urooj, who are black and South Asian, respectively, to quell public outcry against the unjust status quo.” read the open letter From civil rights and progressive advocacy groups. The letter said the “cruel and needless” treatment the two experienced “reflects the Trump administration’s animosity towards the powerful and growing Black Lives Movement.”
A judge released them on bail in June. But then came a change of presidential administration. Nearly exactly one year after the two were first arrested, federal prosecutors — now employed by Biden, not Trump — Gave Mathis and Rahman a plea bargain Even if they accepted it, they would be sentenced to no more than two years in prison.
Conservatives outraged National Review Editorial He criticized Biden for “shameful pandering.” That and similar accusations seemed to ignore the fact that Mattis and Rahman had ruined their professional and personal lives for the foreseeable future, and possibly for the rest of their lives. .
Mattis’ attorney, Shroff, said on Thursday that the crimes her client committed “will hurt him forever.” He described three children who would be separated from him when his prison term began.
“I messed it up,” he said.