Philadelphia, PA – A rioter convicted of torching a Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) patrol car during a violent mob attack on an interstate on-ramp in 2020 was given a reduced sentence in order to avoid negatively impacting his immigration status.
According to federal prosecutors, Tabri and other members of his mob attacked two PSP SUVs on May 30, 2020, as troopers were using the patrol vehicles to block rioters from accessing an Interstate 676 on-ramp during a violent, anti-police protest that day, KYW reported.
Prosecutors said the rioters surrounded the SUVs and bashed them with a hammer, a scooter, a bike lock, skateboards, a crowbar, and their firsts, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.
They shattered the vehicles’ windows and stole fire extinguishers, road flares, and other police-issued riot equipment from inside just before Tabri lit a flare and tossed it into one of the PSP patrol units, KYW reported.
Other rioters followed his lead, tossing additional flares into the vehicle, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.
One of the flares hit a trooper who was standing nearby and lit his uniform on fire, leaving him with a burned hand.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) later identified Tabri using photos and videos posted to social media, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
His attorney, Nancy MacEoin, said her client confessed after being confronted by investigators about his role in the attack.
She said he was remorseful and cooperative.
“This was a moment where he was caught up and chose — regrettably — to express his anger,” MacEoin told The Philadelphia Inquirer. “And for that he accepts full responsibility.”
During his sentencing hearing on Monday, Tabri told U.S. District Judge Joel Slomsky that he had been drinking all day and just got caught up in the moment while he was visiting his skateboarding friends in Philadelphia that day.
“My actions were immature and irresponsible,” he said. “And I deeply regret what I did that day.”
Federal prosecutors initially charged Tabri with an arson offense that carried a mandatory minimum sentence of seven years, drawing the ire of defense attorneys and critics who claimed the charge was a “political” ploy, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
Then-U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain argued that Tabri’s actions endangered the lives of hundreds of peaceful protesters who were out demonstrating that day.
Ayoub Tabri has been ordered detained pending trial on charges of torching a PA State Police vehicle on May 30. That means no bail. He is facing a 7 year mandatory minimum sentence if convicted. Torching a police car is not protest – it is a serious federal crime.
— US Attorney William M. McSwain (@USAttyMcSwain) December 8, 2020
But after McSwain left office last year, federal prosecutors offered plea agreements to Tabri and several other rioters who were charged with torching patrol vehicles during other incidents, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
The reduced charge – obstructing law enforcement during a civil disorder – carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
Tabri jumped on the deal.
During his sentencing hearing on Monday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Vineet Gauri urged the court to sentence him to three to four years behind bars, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
“The defendant’s act of throwing a lit flare into a police vehicle that was situated in an area densely populated with both law enforcement officers and protesters no doubt created a substantial risk of death and serious bodily harm to others,” Gauri noted.
But Slomsky admitted while handing down Tabri’s sentence on Monday that he’d been convinced that a sentence of less than one year would be best in this case because he didn’t want to trigger any potential deportation proceedings for the defendant, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
He sentenced Tabri to 364 days with credit for time already served while the case was pending.
Tabri will be on probation for three years and was ordered to pay $87,000 in restitution for the torched PSP patrol SUV.
“I hope you realize the gravity of what you did and the second chance you’re being given here today,” Slomsky told the defendant, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer. “Third chances are tough.”