Lawyers Ryan Napoli and Kumar Rao were roundly criticized after a Department of Investigation report revealed they'd participated in the "Hands Up" video by rappers Uncle Murda & Maino, which included images of men pointing guns at a cop and lyrics like "Time to start killing these coppers," and “For Mike Brown and Sean Bell, a cop got to get killed." That video was released in December.
Napoli and Rao, who both work for the taxpayer-funded Bronx Defenders, acted in the video and included the agency's offices in the shoot, though Rao maintains they were not aware of the scene featuring an officer held at gunpoint. In a letter to Steinberg released by his attorney today, Rao called the video "an error in judgment" and said he was "heartbroken" about leaving the agency:
I thought participating in this music video project would advance the interests of the community we serve as well as the interests of the organization. At all points during the process, I acted with those goals in mind and no others. As you know, I received assurances by the producer that we would be provided the opportunity to review and edit the lyrics and video before its release. Contrary to our understanding, the video that was released contained lyrics and images that I never approved and would never support, personally or on behalf of the organization. To say that I regret our involvement with this video would be an understatement.
Steinberg, who has served as the head of the Bronx Defenders since 1997, has been suspended without pay for the next 60 days. Steinberg "made misleading statements to city officials about the organization’s involvement," according to the DOI report, and will be under probation for six months following her return to work.
According to a statement posted on the Bronx Defenders' website last week, the agency "abhors the use of violence against the police under any circumstance. We have always been an organization that is committed to preserving life, dignity and respect for all people. The Bronx Defenders never approved the music video 'Hands Up' and never saw it before it went online. We deeply regret any involvement with this video."