New York Daily News

January 29, 2015, 1:53 PM



Bronx defense firm knowingly participated in cop-killing music video, city says


The Bronx Defenders office was aware of its involvement in a music video by rap act Uncle Murda & Maino called 'Hands Up,' which has lyrics about killing police officers, according to a scathing report from the Department of Investigation. The firm had tried to minimize its involvement.


The Bronx Defenders office, which receives $20 million a year in city funds, knowingly participated in a music video that called for killing cops, a city investigation found.

The scathing report from the Department of Investigation also found that the group’s Executive Director Robin Steinberg engaged in “gross mismanagement” in green-lighting the video and handling the controversy that erupted after it was released.

Steinberg repeatedly tried minimizing her involvement with the video in emails to the NYPD and city officials, and at one point claimed to the Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice in December that she only became aware of the video “late last week.”

She’d actually known about it for months, according to the report.

The highly offensive video, made in December after the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, showed two rappers pointing guns at an actor portraying NYPD officers — but the only objections two lawyers with the organization made were over the rappers use of the curse word “c---sucker.”

“I love the song,” lawyer Ryan Napoli wrote in an email after first hearing “Hands Up” by rappers Uncle Murda & Maino.

The song included the lyrics:

“For Mike Brown and Sean Bell, a cop got to get killed. Cause I’m black, police think they got the right to shoot me ... Time to start killing these coppers ...”

Napoli and lawyer Kumar Rao — both of whom had cameos in the video — displayed “serious misconduct” by participating in the video, and pushing the office to sponsor it and allow filming at their headquarters, according to the Department of Investigation report.

It was Napoli and Rao who convinced Steinberg to let the office sponsor the video, and allow filming in their office.

Steinberg never read a copy of the lyrics — despite being told the song contained curse words — and never even researched the artist.

As the report notes, a simple Internet search would have shown that Uncle Murda had two other songs that advocated violence against police — 2009’s “Shoot Every Cop You See” and 2011’s “Shootin’ at Cops.”

When the video went public and set off a firestorm of criticism, Steinberg authorized a statement on behalf of the organization that blamed the video’s producers for the anti-cop message.

“(They) released a version of ‘Hands Up’ that we did not authorize or endorse,’” the statement said.

The statement didn't address the song’s lyrics — which two lawyers at the office knew about — and Steinberg never disciplined those lawyers.

The DOI findings were sent to the mayor’s office, which will decide whether further actions will be taken.

The organization’s funding is almost entirely from the city.

Mayor de Blasio in a previous statement called the video “unacceptable.”