Yesterday we discussed the four arrests associated with two attacks on New York police officers using Molotov cocktails. It is now being reported that one of the defendants arrested, Colinford Mattis, 32, is a furloughed Pryor Cashman associate. Mattis is a graduate of New York University and Princeton University. He was reportedly arrested with a second attorney in the attack. Mattis is accused of driving a van and passenger Urooj Rahman, 31, threw a Molotov cocktail. Rahman is reportedly a human rights lawyer but also recently lost her job. Update: The FBI now says that the two defendants sought to pass out Molotov cocktails.
An NYPD surveillance camera reportedly recorded Rahman throwing the device toward a NYPD vehicle in Fort Greene. A video showed her getting out of a tan 2015 Chrysler Town and Country minivan driven by Mattis and moving toward the patrol car. She was observed lighting a fuse on a Bud Light beer bottle and throwing it through a broken window. It exploded inside of the vehicle and the two fled.
The police also have a picture of Rahman with the explosive:
The FBI statement included the following description:
“Officers pursued the minivan and arrested Rahman and Mattis, who was the vehicle’s driver. The NYPD recovered several precursor items used to build Molotov Cocktails, including a lighter, a bottle filled with toilet paper and a liquid suspected to be gasoline in the vicinity of the passenger seat and a gasoline tank in the rear of the vehicle.”
They are now charged with causing damage by fire and explosives to a police vehicle. If convicted, each of them faces up to 20 years behind bars. There is a mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years.
The specific provision charged appears to be 18 U.S.C. 844 (i):
“Whoever maliciously damages or destroys, or attempts to damage or destroy, by means of fire or an explosive, any building, vehicle, or other real or personal property used in interstate or foreign commerce or in any activity affecting interstate or foreign commerce shall be imprisoned for not less than 5 years and not more than 20 years, fined under this title, or both; and if personal injury results to any person, including any public safety officer performing duties as a direct or proximate result of conduct prohibited by this subsection, shall be imprisoned for not less than 7 years and not more than 40 years, fined under this title, or both; and if death results to any person, including any public safety officer performing duties as a direct or proximate result of conduct prohibited by this subsection, shall also be subject to imprisonment for any term of years, or to the death penalty or to life imprisonment.”
Unlike Samantha Shader’s case discussed yesterday, the vehicle was unoccupied. However, the device did explode (unlike Shader’s Molotov cocktail). Still, Shader is looking at more serious charges of attempted murder. I would expect that additional charges might be sought now that authorities are saying that they were trying to distribute the Molotov cocktails. The criminal complaint now includes the allegations that “Rahman attempted to distribute Molotov cocktails to the witness and others so that those individuals could likewise use the incendiary devices in furtherance of more destruction and violence.” The use of the federal system is also likely to produce a longer sentence in a case of this kind, particularly if they can show a broader conspiracy or interstate movements or communications.
The new allegation reflects premeditation and planning to unleash multiple fire bombings. The FBI is likely looking at the ownership of the van and anyone who may have rendered material support. The case is framed perfectly as a test case of the Administration treating defendants as domestic terrorists under the definition in subsection 5 of 18 U.S.C. 2331:
The term “domestic terrorism” means activities that—
(A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State;
(B) appear to be intended—(i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and
(C) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.
If the Justice Department is looking for a way to reframe cases as domestic terrorism without dealing with the dubious effort to define Antifa as a “foreign terrorist organization” under the State Department regulations, this may be the right case at the right time from their perspective. For Mattis and Rahman, the consequences of such a reframing would obviously magnify the already serious allegations that they are facing.
Pryor Cashman’s website described Colinford Mattis, 32, as a member of the firm’s Corporate Group. That reported entry was deleted after the media learned of the connection.
However, two references remain on site. One describes the corporate team that worked on a deal to sell a $319 million stake in AccorHotels. Another entry refers to Mattis as being on the team that launched brand management platform WHP Global on the acquisition of legacy women’s fashion brand Anne Klein.
According to Pryor Cashman managing partner Ronald Shechtman, Mattis has been on furlough since April due to the pandemic. He said that Mattis’ employment status will be reviewed. Given the serious federal criminal charges, a review may be in order.
Mattis graduated from New York University School of Law in 2016 and received his bachelor’s degree from Princeton University. He was also previously employed as an associate at Holland & Knight. Rahman was just admitted to the New York bar in June 2019 after graduating from Fordham University School of Law.