Criminal Justice

Ex-lawyer sentenced for Molotov cocktail toss; she's 'a remarkable person who did a terrible thing,' judge says

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New York lawyers Colinford Mattis (left) and Urooj Rahman in their May 2020 booking photos. Photos from the U.S. attorney’s office of the Eastern District of New York via the Associated Press.

A disbarred tenants lawyer was sentenced Friday to 15 months in prison for tossing a Molotov cocktail into an unoccupied police car during May 2020 racial justice demonstrations in New York.

During sentencing, U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan of the Eastern District of New York praised lawyer Urooj Rahman’s public-interest work but said he had to impose a sentence that would tell others that her crime would not be tolerated, report and Law360.

“You’re a remarkable person who did a terrible thing one night,” Cogan said.

Rahman had represented low-income tenants at Bronx Legal Services and had also worked with refugees.

Cogan also ordered two years of supervised release and restitution of $30,137.

Rahman was sentenced after pleading guilty to conspiring to toss the Molotov cocktail with another lawyer, former Pryor Cashman associate Colinford Mattis. He was accused of driving the getaway van and also pleaded guilty. Both were disbarred earlier this month.

In a Sept. 9 court filing, Rahman’s lawyers argued that their client should be sentenced to time served—the 28 days that she was in jail before being released on bail. They emphasized Rahman’s commitment to social justice and her empathy for others and said throwing a Molotov cocktail was a “marked deviation from her otherwise exemplary life.”

Rahman became a lawyer in 2019 after graduating from the Fordham University School of Law.

In law school, Rahman participated in fellowship programs in Northern Ireland and the Middle East, where she took a class on international conflict resolution and joined other students to promote human rights. In her third year of law school, she went to South Africa to conduct know-your-rights training for LGBTQ people who had fled other African countries to avoid persecution.

As a result of her experiences, she was named a 2015-2016 James E. Tolan fellow in international human rights, described as a prestigious postgraduate fellowship. As part of the fellowship, she spent nine months in Istanbul helping refugees seeking asylum. Later, she traveled to Athens and then Cairo to support refugees.

Colleagues who worked with Rahman said she worked long hours, and her dedication took an emotional tool.

A psychologist interviewed Rahman and spoke with her relatives and friends. The psychologist concluded that Rahman had suffered early trauma, including harassment following the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Center. Rahman was also involved in emotionally and physically abusive relationships, the psychologist said.

The psychologist also said Rahman was “numb, disassociated and inebriated” on the night in question.

In court, Rahman said she felt “deep shame.”

“I’ll be spending every day for the rest of my life trying to make this right,” she said.

See also: “2 lawyers are disbarred for conspiring to throw Molotov cocktail at empty police car” “2 lawyers plead guilty in Molotov cocktail attack on cop car; prosecutors seek terrorism enhancement” “2 lawyers charged in Molotov cocktail attack on cop car reach plea deal” “2 lawyers are charged with Molotov cocktail attack on cop car; 1 is Pryor Cashman associate”

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