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Anti-cop video imperils legal service group's funding, says de Blasio

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks during an event on Nov. 10, 2014 in Brooklyn. Credit: Getty Images / Ilya S. Savenok

Mayor Bill de Blasio Friday threatened to cancel city funding for a legal services nonprofit that represents 35,000 poor people, after two of its attorneys appeared in a rap video advocating cop killing.

The Bronx Defenders has "literally days" to deliver a plan to City Hall, de Blasio said. "We need to see immediate changes and immediate consequences within the organization," the mayor said, or the group could lose its $20 million in annual funding.

"It would be very unfortunate, in terms of the good work that most of the employees do, but these are some very bad apples who did something absolutely horrid," de Blasio said at an unrelated news conference.

De Blasio's Department of Investigation said Thursday that two Defenders lawyers appeared in the video, called "Hands Up," despite knowing that the lyrics included "Time to start killing these coppers" and "For Mike Brown and Sean Bell, a cop got to get killed."

The video was posted last month on YouTube, suggests avenging the deaths of black men like Brown and Bell who died in confrontations with police. It depicts an actor dressed as a cop and rappers pointing guns at his head.

Though neither of the two lawyers who appeared in their offices in the video, Kumar Rao and Ryan Napoli, is shown in those scenes, the investigation found that they knew months in advance about the violent lyrics..

Investigators also concluded that the Defenders' founder and director, Robin Steinberg, misled city officials inquiring about the controversy.

A pop-up on the Defenders' website said "we deeply regret any involvement with this video." Risa Heller, the outside publicist retained by the Defenders, did not return messages seeking comment.

Among the changes City Hall wants are employees punished and revamped operating procedures, according to a letter from the mayor's office to Earl Ward, who chairs the Defenders' board of directors.

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