Two attorneys accused of throwing a Molotov cocktail at an empty police car in May are allowed to go back home after after a federal appeals court panel sided with earlier courts to let them out on bond while their case proceeds.
Urooj Rahman, 31, and Colinford Mattis, 32, had been held at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn since June 5th, after the government appealed their June 1st release on $250,000 bond, home confinement, and electronic monitoring.
Listen to Beth Fertig's report on WNYC:
The government argued that two lower court judges made an error in releasing Rahman and Mattis by failing to fully consider the risk they pose to the community. But two out of three judges on a federal appeals court panel found no errors were made in those determinations.
Writing for the majority, Judge Peter W. Hall said the court cannot say it was left with a “definite and firm conviction” that a lower court judge erred in “determining that the conditions imposed are adequate to reasonably assure the defendants do not constitute a danger to the community.”
Hall said the court’s determination was based “not only on the defendants’ strong ties to their communities and lack of criminal histories,” but also on the finding that having their friends and family guarantee $250,000 in bond provided “sufficient moral suasion” to ensure compliance with the conditions of release.
Rahman’s attorney, Paul Schechtman, said he was “overjoyed” by his client’s release on Tuesday night. Rahman works as a housing court lawyer for Bronx Legal Services and putting aside the night in question, Schechtman said he would be proud to have her as his daughter.
“What is going on now is an effort to blow this case out of proportion to politicize it, to turn what was a foolish act into a high crime,” he explained. “And I hope that this is the first step toward treating this case with proportion and mature judgment and a resolution that’s fair to everybody.”
The attack took place early on the morning of May 30th, after a night of protests in Brooklyn over the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. Rahman and Mattis are accused of throwing a Molotov cocktail at a vandalized police car near the 88th precinct in Clinton Hill, and of possessing additional supplies to make at least one other explosive device out of a beer bottle, toilet paper, and gasoline. Nobody was hurt.
A federal grand jury indicted them on seven counts, and if convicted they face a minimum of 45 years and a maximum of life in prison. They each pleaded not guilty. Their arraignments were conducted by telephone because of the pandemic, and hundreds of supporters who dialed in shouted “I love you” and other words of encouragement.
In his dissenting opinion, judge Jon O. Newman said releasing the defendants “subjects the community to an unacceptable risk of danger.” He cited an interview Rahman gave earlier on the night of the attack in which she said, “The only way they hear us is through violence.” Rahman also said in the interview that she opposed any violence aimed at people.
Rahman and Matis will appear in court on July 15th.