An Ivy League-educated lawyer who firebombed a cop car during the 2020 George Floyd riots was sentenced on Thursday to just a year and a day in prison, concluding a pair of cases marked by surprising leniency from the Biden Justice Department.
Colinford Mattis's sentence was the second of its kind delivered by U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan of the Eastern District of New York after Urooj Rahman, a public interest lawyer who joined Mattis in the firebombing, was sentenced in November to 15 months. In a pre-sentencing memo, prosecutors said they viewed "Mattis's conduct here as equally culpable to Rahman's conduct" and recommended a sentence of 18 to 24 months—well beneath the initial guideline of 10 years. Mattis's attorney, Sabrina Shroff, declined to comment.
Mattis and Rahman leveraged their prestigious degrees, left-wing legal advocacy, and personal connections—including with one former Obama administration official who posted Rahman's $250,000 bail—to curry favor with the Justice Department. Liberal media outlets like NPR and New York magazine produced fawning coverage of the two after their arrest.
Trump administration prosecutors had sought a 10-year sentence with a domestic terrorism enhancement for the pair, which was dropped after President Joe Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland took office. Mattis and Rahman in June scored a sweetheart deal with Department of Justice prosecutors, pleading guilty to lesser arson and explosives charges that warranted a mere five-year sentence. New York State announced before Rahman's sentencing that both she and Mattis had been disbarred.
James Trusty, a former federal prosecutor, told the Washington Free Beacon in November that the DOJ's treatment of the two was "extraordinarily unusual." Both Mattis's and Rahman's attorneys requested sentence commutations before they appeared in court, pushing for each to be released on time served.
The Justice Department declined to comment.
On May 29, 2020, hours after Minneapolis's Third Precinct was set ablaze by rioters, Mattis and Rahman began sharing plans to build Molotov cocktails and firebomb NYPD targets.
"Bring it to their neck," Mattis, a graduate of Princeton and New York University's law school, texted on the night of protests in New York City. "Molotovs rollin'," Rahman, a Fordham law school graduate, responded.
The two also "encouraged others to engage in violence" and "mocked reportedly injured police officers," according to prosecutors.
Prosecutors said it was "troubling" for a licensed attorney to break the law "with little apparent thought for the severe consequences of that decision." They said it was worse that Mattis's "crime involved targeting a law enforcement agency charged with enforcing the same law that, as an attorney, he had sworn to uphold."
Court filings show Mattis bought two six-packs of Bud Light, toilet paper, and a red gas can before driving with Rahman to the NYPD's 88th precinct in Brooklyn. Rahman took one of the Molotov cocktails and tossed it through the window of a parked cruiser and then ran back to Mattis's minivan, which peeled off "at a high rate of speed" from the scene of the crime. The two were arrested almost immediately afterward.
Both have agreed to pay restitution for the cost of the bombed-out car, which was valued at $30,137.
Update 1/27 at 10:09 a.m.: This piece has been updated with additional comment.