Two Attorneys Accused In Molotov Cocktail Attacks Are Back In Jail

We have been discussing the case of attorneys Colinford Mattis and Urooj Rahman, who are accused of throwing a Molotov cocktail into an occupied police vehicle in New York. The case could prove an early opportunity for the Trump Administration to reframe prosecutions as domestic terrorism.  Earlier, some of us were surprised that U.S. District Judge Margo Brodie upheld the $250,000 bail determination of U.S. Magistrate Judge Steven Gold.  Prosecutors presented evidence that they two attorneys were trying to distribute Molotov cocktails and suggested that Mattis did not appear rational.  Now, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has reversed Judge Brodie and the two attorneys are back in jail.

Both attorneys were bailed out.  Rahman’s bail was paid for by friend and fellow attorney Salmah Rizvi, who served in the Defense Department and State Department during the Obama administration.  She will now receive back her bail money.

The decision came quickly after a brief hearing held Friday morning. However, the Second Circuit also set an expedited schedule for a full appeal.  Even for an interim order, it is relatively rare to have bail decisions reversed since they are imbued with factual determinations of the lower court,

The two attorneys reportedly have clean records, which works to their obvious benefit. The problem is the nature of the alleged crime and the effort to get others to attack police. Such conduct does suggest a threat to public safety, if true.  On the other hand, they can be monitored on home confinement and the risk of the coronavirus still looms large for courts.


I would be interested in seeing the report of the pretrial service officer’s report on the attorneys.  These reports are given great weight by the courts. However, 18 U.S.C. 3142(g), lists factors for bail decisions that they include:

  1. the nature and circumstances of the offense (in particular whether it is an offense which is violent or nonviolent in nature, or involves narcotics);
  2. the weight of the evidence against the person;
  3. the history and characteristics of the person —
    1. character — (including physical and mental condition), family ties, employment, financial resources, length of time in the community, community ties, past conduct history relating to drug or alcohol abuse, criminal history, record of court appearances; and
    2. whether, at the time of the current offense or arrest, the person was on probation, on parole, or on other release pending trial, sentencing, appeal, or completion of sentence for an offense under Federal, State, or local law; and
  4. the nature and seriousness of the danger to any person or to the community that would be posed by the person’s release.

18 U.S.C. § 3142(g).

Three of the four criteria above militate against bail.  The offense is violent and the weight of the evidence is great, including the picture below. It was also done with considerable premeditation and planning if it is true that they had multiple such devices and the makings for more devices.  Finally, as noted, the danger to the community is high particularly given the ongoing protests.

The key is that these individuals were the alleged direct actors, not alleged conspirators or material supporters. The continuing protests are the other major factor, where a court might be more comfortable with bail after the streets have returned to normal. Most judges tend to deny bail in such circumstances.

As a criminal defense attorney, it is probably not surprising that I tend to favor bail. The monitoring of prisoners in the federal system is a very successful program.  Moreover, these defendants are entitled to presumptions of innocence and incarceration makes their work with counsel much more difficult.  Having said that, the decision by Brodie runs against the grain for the courts as a whole.  While there has been controversy recently over the elimination or abridgment of bail in cities like New York, that is a state and city trend. Indeed, the opposition to bail reform was growing in New York before the protests and the release of looters has resulted in outrage, including recent moves by the Manhattan District Attorney seeking court approval to hold defendants.

69 thoughts on “Two Attorneys Accused In Molotov Cocktail Attacks Are Back In Jail”

  1. Dear Prof. Turley:

    I tend to support bail for these two, and in general due to the presumption of innocence.

    What I marvel at, however, is that these two well-educated young professionals have so cavalierly thrown away their careers.


    Blaise MacLean

  2. At a time where the Country is just getting itself together after the shutdown, the liberals want to protest & riot. With so many of the older generation already in fear to come back out into society & pump the economy by spending. The radical liberals want to turn the city streets into unsafe war zones. The liberals see this as a political advantage to derail or distract the Trump Administration. I am the son of a Union Laborer. The hard working, God fearing, USA loving CITIZENS of this great Country need to send a message to these liberals who encourage lawlessness and crime. We are for Law & Order, and Law & Borders. Could the USA do better? Absolutely. But, I love this Country. I don’t think burning it, looting it, trashing it, is the road to making things better.

    1. I’m liberal.
      I’m law-abiding and want others to be law-abiding.
      Peaceful protest is law-abiding.
      Most of the protest has been peaceful.
      Stop conflating peaceful protest with rioting, lawlessness and crime. Peaceful protest doesn’t turn the streets into “unsafe war zones.”
      I attended a totally peaceful protest yesterday in DC. If you love the country, you love our First Amendment. Remind yourself of the text: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” Peaceably assembling for the purpose of speaking out for a redress of grievances is wholly patriotic.
      Police brutality is unacceptable. Police should not have qualified immunity for unwarranted violence.

      1. I hope you realize this post is NOT about participants in a peaceful protest. They were using and distributing molotov cocktails. That is not law-abiding (which is why they are now in jail), nor peaceful. It’s great that you read the Constitution, now maybe you’ll go back and read the article you are replying to.

        1. I’m well aware of what the column is about, as should be clear from my comment about the column:

          Here, I was responding to James Andrade’s claim that “the liberals want to protest & riot” and “liberals who encourage lawlessness and crime.”

          Liberals don’t want to riot / don’t “encourage lawlessness and crime” any more than conservatives do. Some liberals and some conservatives are criminals, but most aren’t. These kinds of ridiculous overgeneralizations are counterproductive.

      2. “Peaceful protest is law-abiding.”

        Not when they intermix with looters and rioters. When they do that they protect those that are trying to destroy other people’s property and steal.

        Peaceful assembly is to be protected, but it cannot be protected if the police are not given the tools to arrest the violent and the peacful protestors refuse to let the police stop the rioting.

        You are not what you say you are. You sound like a rioter hiding behind the peaceful protester.

      3. Save the BS. I live in a smallish city of around .5mil & even our City Hall was lit on fire…but our media still called it “peaceful”. Try selling this “peaceful” bs somewhere else, I happen to trust what I see with my eyes over the blatherings of shills spewing their BS online

        1. Every city in the USA has been hit with it. If there aren’t any demonrats, the usual suspects, the only suspects, a very small city or non city might have gotten a pass. A township, for instance – population 500.

          Half a million means it was rape fire central. Every city that size in the entire continental USA got ******’d by these commie skum demonrats.

          commit can shove it – and hopefully the police will do it for him

      4. so..there were many peaceful protests. There were also many that were not. you cannot say “most” were peaceful without having some metric to gauge them by, since there is none. do you know how many protests there were? what constitutes a protest? etc… so that comment is “Your” opinion

        bail for these two characters is a non starter for most law abiding people.

        The protests in DC were not altogether peaceful, you doth use a wide brush in your statement

    2. James Andrade — Liberals don’t riot. Rioters riot.

      Liberals are not radicals. Well, maybe a few. But there are radicals, plenty of them, who are either anarchist or authoritarian. Even some confused ones claim both. ➿

  3. Where in the law is “presumption of innocence” entitlement exactly?

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