THE BRONX — Two attorneys for the city-funded Bronx Defenders have resigned and the organization’s director was suspended for 60 days without pay, the chairman of the board wrote in a letter to the city Wednesday.
The move follows a Department of Investigation report released last week that accused the three of “serious misconduct” and “gross mismanagement” for the role they played in a violent anti-police music video.
Earl Ward, Bronx Defenders board chairman, also promised the city to reevaluate policies and procedures and to retrain staff members on any updates.
The video featured scenes of the two rappers pointing a gun at a man dressed as an NYPD officer and lyrics that called for violence against the police. The Bronx Defenders offices are clearly depicted when a grieving woman goes to seek counsel there.
“Contrary to our understanding, the video that was released contained lyrics and images that I never approved and would never support,” Rao wrote in his letter of resignation. “To say that I regret our involvement with this video would be an understatement.”
Last week, a Department of Investigation report into the Bronx Defenders involvement with the production of the controversial video found that Director Robin Steinberg had approved the organization’s involvement without reviewing the lyrics of the song and that Rao and Napoli had heard the song.
Later when Steinberg found out about the violence, she wrote misleading letters to public officials and neither of the two lawyers were reprimanded, the report found.
Steinberg did not respond to a request for comment, and Napoli couldn't be reached for comment.
Patrolmen's Benevolence Association President Pat Lynch said the lawyers' resignations weren't enough.
"While it's good that they are gone from the organization, that still does not account for the violation of their oaths as officers of the court," Lynch said in a statement. "In our view, they should have been fired immediately, disbarred from practicing law and the city's funding of Bronx Defenders withdrawn."