Brooklyn attorneys weigh plea deal in NYPD firebombing case

NEW YORK — Federal prosecutors told a judge Thursday they have offered a plea deal to two Brooklyn attorneys charged with firebombing an empty police vehicle last year amid demonstrations in New York City following the death of George Floyd.

U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan set a 90-day deadline for lawyers for Colinford Mattis and Urooj Rahman to accept the government’s offer or proceed to trial on charges, including arson conspiracy, that could land them in prison for nearly 50 years.

The U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn and defense attorneys for both lawyers declined to comment on the plea negotiations, which have been ongoing for several weeks.

“This isn’t a case that developed over a period of years — it happened in one night,” Cogan said during a brief court hearing in Brooklyn federal court. “People ought to be able to work it out.”

The seven-count indictment has been criticized by several former prosecutors as disproportionate, in large part because no one was injured in the attack. The attorneys face at least 45 years in federal prison if convicted as charged.

Mattis, a corporate attorney, and Rahman, a human rights lawyer, are accused of torching a New York City Police Department vehicle in May after a police officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck in Minnesota for several minutes even after he stopped moving. The officer, Derek Chauvin, is on trial in Floyd’s death.

Surveillance cameras recorded Rahman hurling what prosecutors described as a Molotov cocktail into the vehicle, setting fire to its console near an NYPD station house.

Officers later arrested the lawyers and said they found a lighter, a beer bottle filled with toilet paper, and a gasoline tank in the back of a minivan driven by Mattis.

Prosecutors allege the lawyers planned to distribute and throw other Molotov cocktails.

The attorneys are due back July 1 in Brooklyn federal court.