2nd Circuit affirms bond for 2 lawyers charged in Molotov cocktail attack
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A federal appeals court affirmed a decision Tuesday to grant bail to two lawyers charged in a Molotov cocktail attack on an unoccupied police car.
Ruling 2-1, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at New York affirmed a decision that the lawyers may be released to home confinement, with electronic monitoring, on $250,000 bond each.
The court ruled in the cases of former Pryor Cashman associate Colinford Mattis and public interest lawyer Urooj Rahman. Prosecutors say Rahman threw the Molotov cocktail during police protests in New York City on May 30, and Mattis was the getaway driver. Rahman was also accused of trying to distribute Molotov cocktails to other people.
The court majority said it did not find clear error in the decision to grant bail, even though it wouldn’t necessarily have reached the same decision.
The proper inquiry is not whether it would have decided the motion for bail differently in the first instance but whether the district court committed an error in making the determination, the court said.
The lawyers were released from jail Tuesday night after being held for 25 days, according to the New York Daily News.
During the bail hearings, lawyers for Mattis and Rahman stressed their family ties. Mattis has three foster children, two of whom he is in the process of adopting. Rahman helps take care of her ailing mother. Friends and family offered to post $250,000 bonds for the defendants.
A magistrate judge and a reviewing judge had concluded that Rahman and Mattis should be granted bail because of their family ties and their lack of a previous criminal record. The two lawyers were held in jail pending appeal, however, after the 2nd Circuit granted the government’s emergency motion.
Judge Peter Hall wrote the majority opinion and was joined by Judge Gerard Lynch.
“There is no question that the evidence before the district court demonstrated that the crimes charged are serious and the defendants’ conduct on the night of their arrests could well have resulted in significantly more harm than it did,” Hall wrote.
“By affirming the district court’s order to release the defendants on the conditions imposed, we do not seek to minimize the severity of the offense. Rather, we recognize the constraints on our appellate review and the fact that the gravity of an offense is not the only factor to be considered by the district court in deciding whether the conditions of release are adequate to ensure the defendants will not flee and do not constitute a continuing threat to the community,” he added.
To reverse the judge’s bail decision, the court would have to conclude that the government presented clear and convincing evidence that the lawyers presented a danger to the community that could not be mitigated by release conditions. The court would also have to be left with a “definite and firm conviction” that the judge’s decision was wrong.
“We cannot do so on this record,” Hall said.
Mattis and Rahman have been indicted on charges of use of explosives, arson, use of explosives to commit a felony, arson conspiracy, use of a destructive device, civil disorder, and making or possessing a destructive device. If they are convicted on all counts, they face sentences of up to life in prison, prosecutors say.
Mattis is a graduate of the New York University School of Law. Rahman is a graduate of the Fordham University School of Law. More than 850 people affiliated with the law school have signed an open letter calling the charges politically motivated and calling for the lawyers’ release, according to Law.com.