Two Bronx defenders, Kumar Rao and Ryan Napoli, are in pretty hot water and fighting to keep their jobs after starring in Uncle Murda and Maino’s video ‘Hands Up.’ According to The Village Voice, one attorney Ryan Napoli who worked with the the legal non-profit Bronx Defenders office has resigned from his position. NY1 also reports that the organization’s executive director, Robin Steinberg, has been suspended for 60 days without pay.
Investigators were specifically concerned about a scene early in the video in which the two rappers point handguns at an actor playing a police officer. And additional lyrics — like the line “for Mike Brown and Sean Bell, a cop got to get killed” — amounted to “advocating violence against police officers,” DOI commissioner Mark Peters said.
Rao’s letter, addressed to Steinberg, explains that he is “heartbroken” to leave the nonprofit after six and a half years, but that he had “concluded that my ongoing employment with the office is no longer in the best interest of the organization.” Another Bronx-based public defender who has worked with Rao in the past told the Voice his loss would be a blow to the organization. A media representative at Bronx Defenders did not immediately return calls for comment.
The organization, which receives city funds to provide constitutionally mandated legal representation to those who can’t afford it — essentially acting as a public defender’s office would — has been under fire over the last week after a city report found that the group allowed its facilities and personnel to be used in a music video for a track called “Hands Up (Eric Garner Tribute).” The video, which was partially shot in the Bronx Defenders’ offices and which portrays Rao consoling a sobbing client, features rappers Uncle Murda and Maino holding guns to the head of a police officer. The Department of Investigation determined that the organization failed to properly vet the content of the song, a protest anthem that suggests killing police officers in response to the high-profile deaths of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Sean Bell in New York.
The Bronx Defenders claim they did not know the video would include violent images or scenes of killing cops. Do you think they should lose their jobs over the video, if you haven’t seen it click here.