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NYC judge drops charges against Amy Cooper, woman in Central Park bird-watcher incident

Written by on February 16, 2021

Criminal charges were formally dismissed Tuesday against Amy Cooper, the White woman captured in a viral video calling 911 on a Black bird-watcher in Central Park who asked her to put her dog on a leash last Memorial Day.

Cooper, 40, received widespread condemnation and was fired from her job last year after she was seen telling a New York Police Department (NYPD) dispatcher over the phone that “an African American” male was threatening her and her dog inside the Central Park Ramble on May 25, 2020. Christian Cooper, an avid bird-watcher, had reportedly asked Amy Cooper to leash her dog and began recording their verbal dispute on his cell phone once she began dialing 911.

AMY COOPER CHARGED FOR SECOND 911 CALL ON BLACK BORDWATCHER CLAIMING HE ASSAULTED HER: PROSECUTORS 

Amy Cooper repeated the accusation in a second call to police, adding that the man “tried to assault her.” But when responding officers arrived, she admitted that the male had not tried to assault her or come into contact with her, prosecutors said. She was subsequently charged with filing a false police report, and Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr. described her conduct as “racist.”

In a hearing for the dismissal of the case that took less than 10 minutes on Tuesday, Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzi presented to a judge that the district attorney’s office had offered Amy Cooper a “restorative alternative” to facing charges for the incident in Central Park that included five therapy sessions.

This file image made from May 25, 2020, video provided by Christian Cooper, shows Amy Cooper with her dog talking to Christian Cooper in Central Park in New York. Amy Cooper, walking her dog who called the police during a videotaped dispute with Christian Cooper, a Black man, was charged Monday, July 6, 2020, with filing a false report. (Christian Cooper via AP, File)

This file image made from May 25, 2020, video provided by Christian Cooper, shows Amy Cooper with her dog talking to Christian Cooper in Central Park in New York. Amy Cooper, walking her dog who called the police during a videotaped dispute with Christian Cooper, a Black man, was charged Monday, July 6, 2020, with filing a false report. (Christian Cooper via AP, File)

“Given the issues at hand and Miss Cooper’s lack of criminal background, we offered her, consistent with our position on many misdemeanor cases involving a first arrest, an alternative restorative justice solution designed, not just to punish but to educate and promote community healing,” Illuzi said.

Cooper engaged “in a comprehensive, a comprehensive respectful program designed towards introspection and progress” and was sent to a critical Therapy Center in Manhattan, where prosecutors said she received “psychoeducation and therapy services, which focused on the ways in which Miss Cooper could appreciate that racial identities shape our lives, but we cannot use them to harm ourselves or others.”

“Psychoeducation about racial equality is woven into each therapy session to prompt understanding and reflection,” Illuzi said. After completing the five sessions, her therapist “reported that it was a moving experience, and that Miss Cooper learned a lot in their sessions together,” Illuzi said. New York Criminal Court Justice Anne Swern approved the dismissal of the charges.

Cooper, who appeared via video during the virtual hearing, only spoke briefly and said that she did not wish to address the court.

A compliance report will be filed with the court but the parties moved to seal the records of this case, which the judge approved.

The video of the encounter was viewed millions of times online and was seen as an example of the racial attitudes in New York City around the same time the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis sparked a national reckoning on police brutality and systemic racism.

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Cooper, who was fired from her job at the investment firm Franklin Templeton, also issued an apology through a public relations firm last year, explaining that she had misjudged Christian Cooper’s intentions that day at the park.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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