Brooklyn lawyer who helped firebomb NYPD car during Floyd protests sentenced to a year and day in prison

An Ivy League-educated Brooklyn lawyer who helped torch an NYPD car during the 2020 George Floyd protests will spend one year and a day in prison, a federal judge ruled Thursday.

Colinford Mattis bought the gasoline and drove the getaway van while fellow lawyer Urooj Rahman hurled a Molotov cocktail at a police car outside the 88th Precinct stationhouse in Brooklyn on May 30, 2020.

The lawyer also burned down his career in the process — he and Rahman were caught that night, and since their arrests, both have been disbarred.

“You were not the egger-on that night. Ms. Rahman was,” said Brooklyn Federal Court Judge Brian Cogan said in court Thursday. Cogan sentenced Rahman to 15 months in November.

As he told Mattis his fate, of one year and a day in prison and a year of supervised release, Cogan told him, “That’s the best I can do for you. I’d like to do better.”

Mattis graduated from Princeton University and New York University law school. He was an associate with Pryor Cashman, where he specialized in start-ups, and he served on Community Board 5 in Brooklyn.

Colinford Mattis in his May 30, 2020 booking photo provided by the United States Attorney's Office of the Eastern District of New York.

“I am now 35 and I never thought I would be here today,” Mattis said in court. “I am deeply sorry and embarrassed about the things that I did and said in May 2020. I did risk the welfare of others and I ruined my life with my conduct that night.”

Mattis talked about his three foster children and how he felt he let them down and said he has since attended a program and sobered up.

“Mr. Mattis’s conduct that night was a shocking break from a meaningful life of non-violence, community work, and caregiving,” his lawyer, Sabrina Shroff, wrote in a Nov. 2 letter to Cogan asking for time served.

“That break was spurred not only by the graphic and highly publicized murder of George Floyd, and the once-in-a-generation protests that followed during a global pandemic, but also by Mr. Mattis’ then-untreated alcoholism and depression.”

Mattis first watched the video of Floyd’s murder just hours before the crime, and seeing Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin kneel on Floyd’s neck for more than 9 minutes left him a sobbing, emotional wreck.

“Colin coped with this confluence of stress and trauma the only way he knew how: by drinking,” she wrote.

The drinking led to angry text exchanges with his friends, and to the plan to buy gasoline from a service station, make Molotov cocktails, and drive to the police precinct, where Urooj lobbed a firebomb at a police car.

Colinford Mattis and Urooj Rahman in their booking photos, provided by the United States Attorney's Office of the Eastern District of New York.

Cogan said Mattis could have played a very different role that night, one that would have reassured the public that Chauvin would get what he deserved through the legal system.

“On that horrible night we really needed you, we really needed the lawyers to stand up and say ‘Did you see that tape? Did you see what happened to him? This will be dealt with and this will not stand,’” Cogan said.

“It hurts me to the bone to impose a sentence that will affect these children who have already been hurt,” said Cogan about Mattis’ kids.

A federal grand jury initially indicted Mattis and Rahman on charges that carried potential life sentences, and when they first pleaded guilty in October 2021, the duo faced 10 years behind bars if a judge applied a “terrorism enhancement.”

Last year, though, the Brooklyn U.S. attorney’s office sharply lowered the amount of time they’d seek, noting “case-specific mitigating facts and circumstances” that led them to suggest sentences of just 18 to 24 months. That led to a new guilty plea in June to charges of conspiracy to commit arson and making and possessing an unregistered destructive device.

Since his arrest, and after spending a month in jail, Mattis has tried to make amends with the NYPD. He’s asked the police department to participate in a “restorative justice” program that puts suspects in the same room as their victims to talk about the harm caused by their actions, but the NYPD wouldn’t participate, his lawyer wrote.

“All that I can do now is apologize and do whatever I can to make it better,” Mattis said in court. “I reached out to NYPD Restorative Justice. It was not to be and I understand them not wanting to engage in that.”

Mattis and Rahman got lighter sentences than Samantha Shader, 29, who threw a makeshift bomb made out of a Bulleit bourbon bottle at an occupied police van in Crown Heights on May 29, 2020.

The bottle broke the van’s window, but the fluid inside didn’t ignite, and the four officers were spared a fiery fate. She was sentenced to six years behind bars.

Leave a Comment