N.Y. lawyers charged over Molotov cocktail hope to finish plea talks soon – Reuters

A NYPD police car is set on fire as protesters clash with police during a march against the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd, in the Brooklyn borough of New York City, U.S., May 30, 2020. REUTERS/Jeenah Moon/File Photo

  • Defense lawyer for suspended Pryor Cashman associate Colinford Mattis updates court on plea talks
  • Mattis and Urooj Rahman face a mandatory-minimum 45 years in prison if convicted at trial

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Sept 17 (Reuters) – Two New York lawyers charged with attacking an empty police vehicle with a Molotov cocktail during 2020 protests over George Floyd’s death hope to complete plea discussions with prosecutors within the next two weeks, according to a defense attorney.

Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn in February extended plea offers to suspended Pryor Cashman associate Colinford Mattis and public interest attorney Urooj Rahman. During a hearing in July, a prosecutor set down Friday as a deadline to accept a deal.

At the time, plea talks had stalled, prompting U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan to set the case for a trial in March. Defense lawyers during that hearing spoke of filing pre-trial motions challenging the charges.

Sabrina Shroff, Mattis’ lawyer asked to extend the Friday deadline to file such motions until Oct. 1 to “allow the parties to possibly continue and hopefully complete plea discussions,” in a Thursday letter on behalf of the defense and government.

“The government has requested that plea negotiations conclude prior to the filing of pre-trial motions, and the parties hope to do just that,” she wrote.

Shroff and Paul Shechtman, Rahman’s lawyer at Bracewell LLP, did not respond to request for comment on Friday.

A spokesman for Acting U.S. Attorney Jacquelyn Kasulis had no comment. Prosecutors have said their plea offers provide for less prison time than the lawyers could face if they went to trial.

Rahman and Mattis each face up to life in prison and a mandatory-minimum 45-year term if convicted of seven counts including use of explosives, arson and use of a destructive device. Both have pleaded not guilty.

Mattis, a corporate associate at Pryor, was furloughed in April 2020 as part of a COVID 19 pandemic-related cost-cutting measure and suspended following his arrest in May 2020. Rahman represented tenants in the Bronx as a public interest lawyer.

Prosecutors accused Rahman of throwing a bottle containing gasoline into an empty police vehicle through an already-broken window and attempting to distribute Molotov cocktails to other people, then fleeing in a minivan driven by Mattis.

The incident came amid protests in Brooklyn over the death of Floyd, a Black man, who died in Minneapolis under the knee of a white police officer, an incident that sparked widespread protests against racism and police violence.

The lawyers were charged during the Trump administration, which emphasized tough-on-crime policies, but their plea offers came under the new Biden administration, which has pledged criminal justice reform and to address systemic racism.

Supporters of the lawyers have called the U.S. Justice Department’s aggressive prosecution of the two lawyers an attempt to stifle dissent against police brutality and have contended they were overcharged.

The case is U.S. v. Mattis et al, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, No. 20-cr-203.

For the United States: Ian Richardson and Jonathan Algor of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York.

For Mattis: Sabrina Shroff of Law Offices of Sabrina P. Shroff.

For Rahman: Paul Shechtman of Bracewell and Peter Baldwin of Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath.

Related stories:

Plea talks stall for N.Y. lawyers charged over Molotov cocktail, trial date set

Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston

Nate Raymond serves as newsletter editor and the lead author of The Daily Docket newsletter and also covers litigation. He can be reached at nate.raymond@thomsonreuters.com.

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