Legal Aid Organization Under Fire For Participation In Film With Cop-Killing Images and Lyrics

Screen Shot 2015-02-06 at 9.01.57 AMThere is a growing scandal in the Bronx that has led to the resignation of two legal aid attorneys (Ryan Napoli and Kumar Rao) and calls for the defunding of Bronx Defenders, an organization that represents over 35,000 indigent persons each year under a $20 million annual contract with the city. The controversy erupted after the release of the video below entitled “Hands Up” featuring a popular rap artist and noting sponsorship and participation by the Bronx Defenders. The video includes repeated images to two African-American men about to shoot a white police officer and lyrics call for the shooting of police officers.

Screen Shot 2015-02-06 at 9.02.46 AMScreen Shot 2015-02-06 at 9.02.48 AMNapoli and Rao appear in the video and an investigation found that Bronx Defenders were fully informed of the lyrics of the song. Both the audio and written lyrics were attached to the invitation email and then discussed by lawyers in the office, according to an investigation. Napoli appears the first to have been contacted through the girlfriend of producer James Barrett who works in the office. The group’s executive director, Robin Steinberg, is also under fire. Steinberg will be suspended for 60 days without pay, but some have said that a suspension is insufficient given Steinberg’s approval for the participation in the video.

In watching the video, I was at first skeptical of the criticism of the young lawyers. They are not participating in the anti-police language and are merely shown counseling a client. However, the investigation showed that the lyrics and audiotape were given to the office, including both lawyers, and that there was a full discussion over the lyrics and the participation of the office. Rao has been with the Bronx Defenders seven years after leaving a commercial law firm. He insists that he never saw the images (which is perfectly believable) and expected to be able to edit the lyrics. However, there remains a question on why the office would participate in the first place given such offensive and loaded lyrics (even on the chance that they might be edited later). Bot Rao and Napoli admitted that they were fully aware of the cop-killing language before seeking approval for their participation.

Screen Shot 2015-02-06 at 9.02.01 AMThe rap song in the video for retribution against police for the shooting of unarmed black men. It features images of both shootings of black suspects and an image (that we have previously seen) showing two black men about to shoot a helpless white officer in the head. “Cause I’m black, police think they got the right to shoot me,” the lyrics say. “Time to start killing these coppers.”


The lyrics by the song by “Uncle Murda” include:

I spit the shit the streets got to feel Fo’ Mike Brown and Sean Bell a cop gotta get killed Cuz I’m black, police think they got the right to shoot me No jail fo’ them, their punishment is death’s duty They’re either killin’ us or throwin’ us in the cage Martin Luther King is rollin’ ova in his grave (What happened to the dream?!) Time to start killin’ these If Malcolm X was alive, he’ll be next to me with them choppers (At the window) By any means necessary lets make em respect us These cocksuckers supposed to protect us Killin’ unarmed black men, makin’ mothers holla And this what the government payin’ with our tax dollars?! (Crazy!) All these unjustified shootins Then they call us animals when we start lootin’ Those kids ain’t had no gun and the police knew it Jay need to talk to Obama or let me do it!

I find the decision of the group to participate in such a rap video to be incomprehensible and reprehensible. However, there is a move to defund the group which supplies legal representation to thousands of indigents in the area. This is an office — and attorneys — who have spent their careers working for indigent people at a fraction of what they could earn in the private sector. Defunding such an office is not as easy as people suggest. There are thousand of ongoing cases and those people will require continued representation. The question is what should be deemed sufficient punishment. There have been two resignations and a suspension from this group. What should be deemed sufficient to close this matter?

Here is the video: Hands Up Video

Source: NY Times

65 thoughts on “Legal Aid Organization Under Fire For Participation In Film With Cop-Killing Images and Lyrics”

    1. joshgodawful

      as in they keep multiplying around here.

      Paul C. Schulte

      Richard – I would like to have both prosecutor and defender’s offices closed. Then we go to the British system with attorneys taking turns prosecuting and defending.

      on 1, February 6, 2015 at 4:59 pm happypappies

      Paul C Schulte,

      I might be really showing my ignorance here but wouldn’t that be kind of confusing

      on 1, February 6, 2015 at 5:12 pm Paul C. Schulte

      Shadow – when ACORN was defunded they just started new organizations under new names. BTW, they will be getting mortgage money to help fund low interest low down loans.

      on 1, February 6, 2015 at 5:25 pm Paul C. Schulte

      joshgodawful – you are aware that people have been beaten to death?

      Reeeaaaaallllyyyyy???? So everyone is going to be beaten to death in the above tableau? is that it?

      I am kind of dim so I am always asking the college professors and lawyers about things around here so I can better understand the system 😉 🙂

  1. @Paul C. Schulte “you are aware that people have been beaten to death?”

    Ah, I didn’t realize these lawyers beat someone to death. Well, then they shouldn’t lose their jobs they should be prosecuted. Or are you bringing up something irrelevant to engender sympathy for firing these people? Perhaps when discussing whether people should lose their jobs we should stick to relevant actions BY THEM.

    1. joshgodawful – my response to you was to make you aware that unarmed people are still dangerous. How you got that to attorneys I do not know. 🙂

  2. The CIA has been complicit and instrumental in the US drug trade since the 1960’s Let’s focus instead on an urban drug culture while condoning the faceless beneficiaries.

    The US is not officially opposed to illicit drugs so much as it is opposed to illicit drugs that don’t come from them.

    1. Zedalis

      Look, you cannot prove Obama’s administration is complicit in this. Sorry

  3. Actually the US Military has troops in about 150 countries worldwide. No doubt in my mind they are in Peru and not just as embassy guards. Whole units within the Special Operations Command are trained and dedicated to specific regions. Even during Vietnam we had guys training in South American culture and languages.

    1. Joel]

      You cannot say that until the CIA comes clean on it. Otherwise it’s just Yellow Journalism. Sorry. And. one of the good things Obama is doing is letting those poor Sex Slave childern through from Central American and give them asylum no matter how unpopular with the Republicans and Conservatives.

      Please don’t even think that the Seal Teams are into the Drugs without Proof. My Husband was a SEAL in Vietnam and he is now in the Veterans home and Aridog was in the Military and served his entire career and I don’t know anyone more honest and upstanding.

  4. Happypappies,

    Then there’s Frank Sinatra, “I Did It My Way”. Live. Get box of tissue for crying.
    Best NYC Police Chief was nick named “Out of Town Brown”. Who was that? Hint: Gambled in Las Vegas a lot.

    1. On April 11, 1986, an article in The Washington Post stated that:

      Jack Terrell, who was a leader of the American paramilitary group . . . CMA, said FBI agents and prosecutors from the U.S. attorney’s office in Miami have met with him several times with at least two of those sessions becoming full-day meetings. Terrell said the investigators asked him about alleged weapons shipments from the United States to contra base camps in Central America, contra involvement in drug smuggling, and a reported conspiracy to assassinate the U.S. ambassador to Costa Rica, Lewis Tambs.

      An April 15, 1986 cable to Headquarters commented that Terrell had made “scurrilous attacks on [CIA]”.
      A May 8, 1986 FBI telex to CIA and other U.S. Government agencies reported that the FBI had attempted “to locate Jack Terrill [sic] at his residence” in New Orleans. The owner of the apartment building where Terrell lived and where he served as building manager and handyman had reportedly said that:

  5. Anarchist 2.0,

    The cop killer music was 1 thing. The guns, cocaine and heroin was another. One thing leads to another you might say.

    1. Wow Joel

      What about all of the stings back in the Mafia days? What about New York and Frank Sinatra and the Pizza Connection Rudolph Giuliani, now mayor of NY, then the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of NY & the “invisible maestro” of the entire prosecution.

  6. Joel-

    “Spoke to police chief I knew in town about this. ”

    Because obviously, if you hear words that offend you, you should go straight to the chief of police to report such a heinous crime.

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