Despite only being accused of tossing a Molotov cocktail into an already abandoned cop car, lawyers Urooj Rahman and Colinford Mattis are facing potential sentences that are—by any reasonable account—devastatingly severe and wholly ridiculous.
The two attorneys were arrested in New York City in May amid global protests in the wake of George Floyd's murder at the hands of police, with Gothamist noting that they were let on $250,000 bond on June 1. However, per an appeal from the government, they were later sent back to the Metropolitan Detention Center mere days later as if their actions posed any threat at all to the general public.
Given the nature of the accusations, this makes no sense, particularly when compared to the treatment received by, say, cops charged in the murder of George Floyd and other law enforcement officers who've committed violent crimes that show an actual reasonable threat to the public.
In a press letter obtained by Complex, Dr. Cornel West and sociocultural anthropologist Saquib Ali Usman speak to this troubling discrepancy and much more while highlighting the need for this case to garner as much attention as possible due to its dangerous potential of shifting the narrative.
"While released home on GPS-monitoring, the government demanded they be thrown back in jail pending appeal," the letter states. "In doing so, the prosecution continued to misrepresent the identities of Colin and Urooj as fantastically dangerous, undermining the determination of two experienced federal judges and perpetuating the same kinds of alarmist fantasies that have rooted racial violence and discrimination in this country for centuries."
To add to the troubling nature of the case, two of the three judges on the panel in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit who revoked the bond were appointed by Donald Trump. Colinford Mattis and Urooj Rahman, a black man and a Muslim woman, now face seven felony counts—use of explosives and arson among them—that together carry a possible sentence that's egregious.
"They face a 45-year mandatory minimum," J. Wells Dixon of the Center for Constitutional Rights told the Huffington Post's Samantha Storey on Monday. "How do you square that? It is shocking and appalling that in the United States someone could spend 45 years in prison for vandalizing an empty police car that had been previously vandalized. That is not right."
Ahead of another hearing on Tuesday, a number of supporters—including fellow lawyers, activists, and concerned members of the public—have called attention to the case.