Lawyer who threw Molotov cocktail at NYPD car during George Floyd protests says she was drunk and dealing with ‘unprocessed trauma’ at the time, as she asks for reduced sentence

  • Urooj Rahman, 33, along with Colinford Mattis, 35, pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges punishable by no more than five years imprisonment in June 
  • Federal prosecutors agreed to recommend a prison sentence of 18 to 24 months in return for the plea 
  • Rahman is now pushing to have that sentence converted into time served after spending 28 days in a federal jail in Brooklyn before posting $250,000 in bail 
  • Court documents say that Rahman’s lawyers said on September 9 that Rahman was drinking vodka ‘on an empty stomach’ and was ‘quite drunk’
  • That wasn’t Rahman’s only excuse, according to attorneys. They added that she was suffering ‘early trauma’ from living as Muslim in post-9/11 New York City 

A New York lawyer who torched an NYPD van with a Molotov cocktail during the George Floyd protests in 2020 begged for sympathy and a lenient sentence by blaming her vandalism on ‘unprocessed trauma’ and alcohol. 

Urooj Rahman, 33, a human rights attorney, along with Colinford Mattis, 35, pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges punishable by no more than five years imprisonment in June over the destruction.

Federal prosecutors agreed to recommend a prison sentence of 18 to 24 months in return for the plea. 

Rahman is now pushing to have that sentence converted into time served after spending 28 days in a federal jail in Brooklyn before posting $250,000 in bail.  

According to court documents, Rahman’s lawyers said on September 9 that Rahman was drinking vodka ‘on an empty stomach’ and her condition was described as ‘quite drunk’ before they set the van ablaze, according to the New York Post. 

Attorneys wrote in a filing to Brooklyn Federal Court Judge Brian M. Cogan, ‘Tossing the Molotov cocktail was a way of expressing anger at those police officers around the country for whom black lives did not matter. It was an act of protest intended to avoid exposing others to harm.’ 

Urooj Rahman (pictured), 33, along with Colinford Mattis, 35, pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges punishable by no more than five years imprisonment in June over the destruction

According to court documents, Rahman’s lawyers said on September 9 that Rahman was drinking vodka ‘on an empty stomach’ and her condition was described as ‘quite drunk’ before they set the van ablaze 

That wasn’t Rahman’s only excuse. Her attorneys added that she was suffering ‘early trauma’ from living as Muslim in post-9/11 New York City; suffering through ‘abusive relationships’ and ‘injustices she has witnessed here and abroad.’

Among those cited were times Rahman spent helping refugees in Turkey and Greece, as well as aiding low-income New Yorkers who were under threat of eviction. 

However, an interview prior to the chaos shows Rahman speaking clearly in favor of her cause and not at all slurring her speech. 

Rahman and Mattis were initially facing up to life in prison when they were first arrested in 2020, which was then reduced to 10 years in October, 2021 before the plea. 

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Urooj Rahman, 33, (left) walks out of the Brooklyn Federal court on Thursday after taking a plea deal for torching an NYPD van during the George Floyd protests in 2020

Colinford Mattis, 35, (right) leaving the Brooklyn Federal court on Thursday after taking a plea deal for the 2020 torching of an NYPD van

Urooj Rahman clutching a Molotov cocktail fashioned out of a Bud Light bottle on the night she used a similar device to torch an NYPD van

The pair was arrested amid clashes between protesters and police on May 30, 2020, during an eruption of demonstrations following Floyd’s killing by Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin. 

Surveillance cameras recorded Rahman hurling a molotov cocktail bomb into a parked police vehicle, setting fire to its interior. No one was injured in the attack, but the vehicle was severely damaged.

Officers arrested the lawyers a short time later and said they found a lighter, a Bud Light beer bottle filled with toilet paper and a gasoline tank in the back of a minivan driven by Mattis, a corporate attorney. Prosecutors allege the lawyers planned to distribute and throw other Molotov cocktails.   

An NYPD van which was set ablaze in Brooklyn during the May 2020 George Floyd protests. It is not clear if it is the same vehicle that the lawyers hit with Molotovs

A burned out NYPD van after the protest in May 2020. It is not clear if it is the same vehicle that the lawyers hit with Molotovs 


Urooj Rahman, (left) and Colinford Mattis (right) after their arrest in 2020 for firebombing an NYPD van during George Floyd protests in New York City

Boss of the NYPD union Patrick Lynch, (center) has condemned the short sentences of Rahman and Mattis

Initially, Mattis and Rahman were looking at a 40-year mandatory minimum count and life imprisonment when they were arrested in 2020. 

The government’s prosecution plan then shifted to a 10-year sentence with terrorism enhancement, based on an October 2021 Brooklyn federal court hearing where Mattis and Rahman each pleaded guilty to one count of possessing and making a destructive device.

The pair have spent most of the last two years in home confinement.

News of the lawyers’ reduced sentences was met with outrage by Patrick J. Lynch, President of the New York City Police Benevolent Association, who said the light sentences will embolden ‘anti-police radicals.’ 

‘It’s bad enough that these dangerous criminals have been allowed to sit at home for the past two years,’ Lynch said. 

‘Handing them a below-guidelines sentence would give a green light to other anti-police radicals who seek to advance their cause through violence. The judge must reject this request.’

U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan said he was not bound by the sentencing recommendations under the new plea deal, but would take it into account when he sentences the two attorneys this fall. 

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