Colinford Mattis and Urooj Rahman, both lawyers, had been freed on home detention, on $250,000 bonds, collateralized by family and friends, until the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit revoked their bond on June 5 pending a decision on whether bail should be reinstated following a strong push by the government on the basis that the defendants were a continual danger to society. They were taken back into custody that day.
The U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District of New York has twice appealed a June 1 bail decision made by a magistrate judge, arguing throughout that Mattis and Rahman could not be trusted to remain at liberty.
Now, 56 lawyers who are not connected to the case are trying to weigh in, backing the defendants for the sake of upholding existing bail practice. Prosecutors in the Brooklyn U.S. attorney’s office have repeatedly said that Mattis and Rahman are a serious risk — refusing to credit their careers and family ties as mitigating factors. A spokesman for the office declined to comment on Tuesday’s filing by the ex-officials.
“This Court should reject the government’s argument that factors existing prior to an alleged offense — such as strong family and community ties, stable employment, stable addresses, and lack of criminal history — are inherently insufficient to defeat the presumption and support bail in a case involving dangerousness,” legal representatives for the former Justice Department officials wrote in an amicus brief filed Tuesday.
In court filings and in court arguments, the government has doubled down on the security risk argument.
“The defendants were caught on camera firebombing an NYPD vehicle,” Brooklyn prosecutors wrote in a court filing. They also “sought to incite others to launch similar attacks and attempted to distribute other Molotov cocktails to other protestors in furtherance of this objective.”
The defendants did not act rationally when they risked their hard-earned livelihoods to commit the potentially deadly act and therefore could not be trusted to refrain from such behavior if released, prosecutors have argued during the bail proceedings. Mattis, who attended Princeton University, was reportedly fired from his law firm. Rahman at the time of her arrest was representing indigent defendants in Bronx housing court. As lawyers, both “were well aware of the severity of their criminal conduct,” the papers say.
Despite their professional stature, the duo “made the calculated decision to risk personal and professional consequences through the conduct that led to their arrests,” the U.S. attorney argued.
The brief submitted by the former prosecutors seeks to influence the federal appeals court to preserve what they see as proper bail precedent. The attorneys, represented in the filing by Brian Jacobs and Edward Kim, hope their expertise will be considered by the panel of appellate judges who will decide the bail issue.
The former federal counselors criticized the U.S. attorney’s “novel legal position that any facts that existed prior to a defendant’s alleged criminal conduct (and failed to prevent it) . . . are insufficient to assure the safety of the community and thus cannot support a bail order,” according to the filing to the 2nd Circuit by Jacobs and Kim.
Judges are required to take into consideration relevant facts from a defendant’s life and background in determining bail. In the case of Mattis and Rahman, their lawyers cited their professional successes, family presence in New York and ties to their communities as factors that should have been considered.
The group of ex-prosecutors, including several who are prominent in the city’s legal circles, said in the brief that the U.S. attorney’s bail stance “contradicts” settled bail law and could “risk altering lower courts’ assessments of routine bail applications.”
Mattis and Rahman were recently indicted on charges including use of explosives, arson, as well as counts related to the making and possession of an incendiary device stemming from a May 30 attack.
They have not yet entered a plea to the charges and are due in court next week to be arraigned on their indictment. Lawyers for the two originally pushed for “moderate” bail without the necessity of home confinement. In appeal arguments, they have fought for their clients to be free from pre-trial detention.
Since their initial appearance, bail has been upheld by U.S. District Court Judge Margo Brodie, and the 2nd Circuit has heard oral arguments.
Brooklyn federal prosecutors are also handling the case against upstate resident Samantha Shader, who is accused of throwing a gasoline bomb into another NYPD vehicle, which was occupied, during a protest.