The first of the six men charged in the Philadelphia police car fire that occurred at the 2020 protests following the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police have been convicted.
Ayoub Tabri, 25, was sentenced on Monday to 364 days in prison – a shorter term than he is already serving and just enough time to avoid setting off immigration proceedings for the Moroccan immigrant. Tabari, a green-card holder from Arlington, Va., has been in the United States since he was 6.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that a longer prison term, which he and others faced on initial arson charges carrying a minimum of seven years, could send him to a country where he knew nobody and did not speak the language.
Former U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain promised to fight harsher arson charges against the six men arrested. After leaving office last year, federal prosecutors worked out plea deals for some of these defendants, including Tamerlan and Lorie-Elizabeth Blumenthal. Despite that, the prosecutors were arguing Monday for longer sentences.
Tabari had pleaded guilty in March to one count of hindering law enforcement in a civil disturbance, according to court records. “The judge took into account relevant factors and issued the just sentence, said Nancy McEoin, the federal public defender who represents Tabri, on Tuesday.
Once released, Tabri would be on three years probation and be required to pay roughly $87,000 in restitution for the Pennsylvania State Police car destroyed after he and others launched lighter-than-light traffic flares at the vehicle.
Blumenthal, who has pleaded guilty to two counts of obstruction of law enforcement in a civil disturbance related to throwing a burning piece of police barriers at a police vehicle, is scheduled for sentencing later this month. Police used photos of the protests and profiles on social media to locate Blumenthal, 35, of Jenkintown, who was wearing a distinctive T-shirt that detectives tracked down on Etsy and had a tattoo that could not be missed.
Attorney Paul Hetznecker declined to comment on specifics about the case against Blumenthal. Still, he said it was significant that prosecutors were moving forward with charges against people facing charges stemming from the protest.
“It reflects a change in thinking among prosecutors at the Justice Department regarding these cases, and it puts them into the appropriate context, Hetznecker said. “These cases occurred during a significant flashpoint in our history and should be seen as such.
The Blumenthal case was widely criticized by civil rights advocates, who worried that it indicated that policies that promoted the mass surveillance of dissidents on social media and the Internet were being followed. The original indictment also symbolized the federal official’s eagerness to seek harsher punishments for people arrested in the national protests.
Another defendant is scheduled to plead guilty to lesser charges later this month. Three more appointments related to the fire on a police car are expected to go to trial later this year.