Mayor Bill de Blasio’s criminal justice coordinator, Elizabeth Glazer, has handed down her “punishment” to the Bronx Defenders for the participation of two of their attorneys in the “hands up” video that the City and PBA used to deflect attention from truly serious matters, ranging from the needless killing of unarmed citizens like Eric Garner and Akai Gurley to the police insubordination and work stoppage because the mayor didn’t support cops killing unarmed citizens.
From the NYLJ, the two lawyers who were shown in the video, Ryan Napoli and Kumar Rao, have resigned and the Board of Bronx Defenders has suspended Robin Steinberg without pay for 60 days.
Though Mayor Bill de Blasio said last week that every option was on the table as a consequence for the “Hands Up” video, including defunding The Bronx Defenders, Elizabeth Glazer, director of the mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice told the group Wednesday that she accepted the plan.
No doubt they hope that throwing these warm bodies under the bus will silence the PBA cries for blood and make the police not hate the mayor as much as they do now. And will, no matter what the mayor does. If only similar concern was shown when a member of the PBA spilled blood.
Worse yet, Glazer writes:
The Board will immediately retain Jason Lilien, the former Bureau Chief of the New York State Attorney General’s Charities Bureau and the principal author of the Nonprofit Revitalization Act of 2013, which imposed new duties and obligations on the boards of non-profits. In coordination with my office and MOCS, Mr. Lilien will conduct a complete review of the organization and advise the Board on policy and governance reforms necessary to address specifically DOI’s findings.
Perfect, because the funding for Bronx Defenders will be far better spent on paying for this nonsense than representing the indigent. After all, everybody knows how indigent defense is rolling in so much dough they have oodles of money to squander on paying non-productive former state functionaries.
And then, they now have a former Attorney General bureau chief telling an indigent defense organization how to function. Perhaps it didn’t dawn on the mayor’s office, but the attorney general’s office is on the other side of the criminal justice function, the side that wants to see every client of Bronx Defenders convicted. Of course, to the bureaucratic mindset, government functionaries are wonderful, dedicated and all serve the greater interest of the good of the people, as long as it’s on their checklist.
But the kicker is this:
In conjunction with [Glazer’s] Office, within 60 days the City’s Corporation Counsel will identify a new training program for all employees of The Bronx Defenders to ensure that its attorneys are zealously representing the interests of their clients and observing their responsibilities as officers of the court. This training program will be put into place within 30 days of Ms. Steinberg’s return.
So New York City’s Corporation Counsel, whose job it is to defend police for wrongful conduct, will now have their finger in the training of public defenders to “ensure” they are zealously representing their clients?
The one thing that has never been in doubt was that Bronx Defenders did its job well. There is, on the other hand, some serious doubt about the efficacy of Corp Counsel’s office, it being the place where third stringers get jobs after they’ve been turned away by the two US Attorney’s offices, five city district attorney’s offices, and the Special Narcotics prosecutor.
The notion that anyone at Corp Counsel should have any part of their anatomy, whether a finger or worse, involved in what Bronx Defenders do is ridiculous. If anything, Robin Steinberg ought to teach Corp Counsel lawyers how to do their job, though she wouldn’t because they are the adversaries in the system.
All of this over a momentary appearance in a music video? Of course not. The video was trivial, though the punishment, that skims money out of indigent defense so it can be used in the Full Employment For Former Government Functionaries Act, will directly harm the poor in the Bronx.
This is about the mayor appeasing the cops, at the expense of Bronx Defenders, and more importantly, the defendants in the Bronx courts who have long suffered mightily at the hands of cops who target their neighborhoods, their youth of color.
But hey, it’s much easier to beat up on Bronx Defenders and black and Hispanic young men who constitute the vast majority of Bronx criminal defendants than to take on cops killing people. And the irony is that the PBA won’t be “satisfied,” because this has nothing to do with satisfaction or any claimed horrible offense from the music video. This is about deflecting public attention from the cops and the city, in the hope that the public is foolish and vapid enough to buy into the nonsense that this music video matters, but cops killing people is nothing to lose sleep over.
Thanks, Liz Glazer, for making the Bronx even more fabulous than it was before. The City didn’t punish Bronx Defenders. They punished the poor of the Bronx. But anything to keep the cops off de Blasio’s back, if only for a day or two.