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Brooklyn lawyers plead guilty to a charge in Molotov cocktail case tied to George Floyd protest

<i>AP licensed</i><br/>Colinford Mattis
AP licensed
Colinford Mattis

By Sonia Moghe, CNN

Two lawyers who federal prosecutors say took part during an anti-police brutality protest last year in making a Molotov cocktail and throwing it at an empty New York Police Department vehicle have each pleaded guilty to one charge related to the incident.

Colinford Mattis, 34, and Urooj Rahman, 32, each pleaded guilty Wednesday in a Brooklyn courtroom to a count of knowingly making and possessing a destructive device — one of several charges brought by prosecutors.

Each attorney could face up to 10 years in prison, US District Judge Brian Cogan said, adding the two would face “virtually certain disbarment.” Both have been free on bond.

“I deeply regret my conduct, and wish I’d made better choices on that night,” Mattis told Cogan during Wednesday’s plea hearing. He noted he is being treated for substance abuse and completed inpatient treatment for alcohol abuse in May.

“I deeply regret my actions,” Rahman told the judge, adding she is being treated for anxiety and depression by a psychiatrist and psychologist.

They are set to be sentenced February 8.

Mattis and Rahman were indicted in June 2020 on seven federal counts, including use of explosives, arson, using an explosive to commit a felony, arson conspiracy, use of a destructive device, civil disorder and possessing and making a destructive device.

Neither has entered a plea on any other charges.

The defendants had taken part in protests in Brooklyn in late May over the death of George Floyd, federal prosecutors said. The Black man’s killing in Minneapolis police custody on May 25, 2020, sparked demonstrations nationwide over police use of force.

At the Brooklyn protest, Rahman approached an empty NYPD vehicle with an already broken window and tossed in a makeshift explosive device, according to court filings.

She also “attempted to distribute Molotov cocktails to several other individuals and to incite them to use the Molotov cocktails in the course of the protests.”

Rahman fled the scene in a van driven by Mattis, court records show. Police stopped the vehicle and found “precursor” items to build explosives, including a lighter, a Bud Light bottle filled with toilet paper and a gasoline tank.

During Wednesday’s plea hearing, Assistant US Attorney Ian Richardson shared more evidence against Rahman and Mattis. It included a text message from Mattis on the night of the alleged incident that read, “Go burn down 1 PP (a nickname for the NYPD headquarters)” along with a Google Maps link with directions.

Prosecutors also have a video interview Rahman gave to a “citizen journalist” in which she said, “This has got to stop and the only way they hear us is through violence,” Richardson said.

Neither defendant responded Wednesday in court to those accusations.

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CNN’s Erica Orden contributed to this report.

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