How many in-depth features do we need about Colinford Mattis and Urooj Rahman?

How many in-depth features do we need about Colinford Mattis and Urooj Rahman?

The answer, according to Buzzfeed, is at least one more. Today the site published a 6,000 word profile about the two lawyers who threw a Molotov cocktail into a police vehicle. The piece is complete with childhood photos and details such as this:


Mattis’s mother, Edith Watson, arrived from Jamaica in the late 1970s, worked as a youth counselor at a group home and later a home health aide, and over the years took in more than two dozen foster children…

Rahman’s family arrived from Pakistan in 1993, when she was 4, and moved to Bay Ridge, a southwest Brooklyn neighborhood that drew immigrants from Italy and Ireland, then Russia and Poland, then China and, more recently, the Middle East.

Why do I need to know this? Why does anyone? The only reason these two are in the news is that they were lawyers who got caught rioting. Not only making Molotov cocktails but offering them to people. And not only getting carried away with themselves but, in Rahman’s case, going on camera beforehand and justifying the destruction. She literally said, “the only way they hear us is through violence.”

It’s the very definition of an open and shut case. But every left-leaning news outlet seems desperate to draw out their personal history in exhausting detail to convince us they’re really just good kids. And so we’ve had a long string of profiles on these two. The NY Times published one in June. Here’s a sample:

Andrea Wangsanata, a high school classmate, recalled that Ms. Rahman was often “vocal and adamant, advocating on the side of people who were systematically oppressed.”


CNN published one the same month:

Mattis was raised and attended public school in East New York, a section of Brooklyn that has among the highest crime rates and lowest-performing schools in the city, according to public records.

The one that appeared in New York magazine in August is nearly as long as Buzzfeed’s effort.

After college, Mattis worked for Teach for America in New Orleans and later won a prize for his pro bono work helping a single mother get child support. Rahman worked in Northern Ireland and on behalf of hill-tribe people in Thailand and was a student of South African apartheid.

What all of these biographical details are really meant to communicate to readers is ‘these are left-wing people you might consider friends, not dangerous fanatics.’ Indeed, one constant thread in all of these reports is the group of friends who are clearly coordinating all of this glowing coverage with reporters. In fact the A1 story in the NY Times appeared under the headline “Bomb Charge Shocks Friends Of 2 Lawyers.”

A portrait of Mr. Mattis and Ms. Rahman was assembled from interviews with more than three dozen of their friends, relatives, colleagues, neighbors and former professors. Those who knew the two well said they had long been passionate about social justice issues and had expressed frustration over Mr. Floyd’s death, but never showed a desire to commit violence.


New York magazine described how the friends swung into action the moment they were arrested:

Mattis and Rahman’s friends, many of whom are career activists, set to work during the early-morning hours of May 30. They called one another. They called other lawyers. A friend brought granola bars and water to the precinct house and begged the officers out front to give them to their friends. They reached out to the people they knew at the Federal Defenders of New York, which provides free representation to people charged with federal crimes, and reached out to everyone else they knew, too.

CNN offered just one example of many in which the friends sing their praises of the pair:

Meanwhile, their detention has alarmed their friends.

“They’re just amazing people,” said Rizvi. “They’re really kind-hearted and they do not deserve to be in jail right now. They are not a threat.”

And Buzzfeed interviewed 28 friends for its story:

This story is based on hundreds of pages of legal documents, excerpts of their own writing dating back to high school, and interviews with 28 friends, classmates, and colleagues. (One of the reporters for this story, Ruby Cramer, attended the same high school as Mattis, and they graduated two years apart.)

I struggle to think of any other accused arsonists who have been given lengthy profiles by multiple news outlets based substantially on the recollections of a group of friends who are clearly organizing for their defense. It’s just not something you see every day. But there appears to be no end to the interest in these two.


The pair have been charged with federal crimes which means they are potentially facing decades in prison for their actions. So far, the fact that they are both lawyers has seemed to hurt their case rather than help it. The assumption is that if anyone should have known better about the need to work through the system, these two should have. And so we’re getting these profiles complete with weepy descriptions of their facial expressions, like this one from Buzzfeed:

Only the briefest flashes betrayed the fact that these visits were not normal, that Rahman and Mattis could not leave home, that a lifetime in prison hung over their heads, that for them, the stakes of the coming election were vastly higher because what happens to their case almost entirely depends on who is president. Friends know Mattis is keeping it together for his kids. They suspect Rahman puts on a smiling face for their benefit, empathetic as always to the feelings of others, refusing to let her troubles bring them down. They don’t tell her what they notice. A vacant stare before she catches herself. A laugh not quite as extravagant as in better days. A hint of melancholy in her eyes imperceptible to anyone who does not know her as well as her friends do. The moment always passes.

Good grief. Did the authors of the piece write this or did the friends submit it directly into the draft? You know why Rahman’s eyes have a “hint of melancholy?” It’s because she and Mattis did something terrifically stupid and got caught dead to rights. Something like that does tend to put a hitch in your stride. They’ve really blown up their lives through their own actions. No one else made them do it.


I’ve said before on Twitter that I don’t think either of these two deserve the maximum possible sentence. It would be absurd to give them 40 years for burning a car. Even half that would make no sense given that rapists and murderers can often serve sentences of 10 years or less. So, fine, I agree they don’t deserve to do murder time for arson. But please spare me another in-depth profile about what great people they are. They can be great people in prison for a while. They earned it.

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Ed Morrissey 4:41 PM on September 29, 2023