A white woman who called police on a black birdwatcher following a verbal dispute over her dog in Central Park once unsuccessfully tried suing a co-worker, claiming they were former lovers and that he stole tens of thousands of dollars from her.
In 2015, Amy Cooper filed a lawsuit against a man she claimed was a former romantic partner who had bilked her out of $65,000. However, the target of that failed lawsuit, Martin Priest, told Oxygen.com that the allegations were “untrue,” “completely fabricated,” and “false” — claiming that Cooper once stalked him.
He denied ever having a romantic relationship with Cooper and alleged she invented the lawsuit after he broke off their friendship.
“The idea of me having a relationship with her is preposterous,” Priest said.
Priest, a consultant who worked with Cooper during a stint at the Lehman Brothers in the 2000s, said the pair were once colleagues but that he broke off their friendship after Cooper allegedly became obsessive.
“She was a work friend and it turned into stalking,” he said. “I pushed her away."
In the lawsuit, Cooper claimed that she and Priest had engaged in an adulterous and intimate relationship that spanned from 2008 to 2012, according to court documents, obtained by the New York Daily News. He later asked to borrow $100,000, Cooper claimed in the suit. She partially obliged, allegedly forking over $65,000 to Priest, which she argued he never repaid.
“The fraud perpetrated against [the] plaintiff by [the] defendant was gross, and involved high moral culpability,” the lawsuit alleged, according to the Daily News.
Priest warned her to “keep the f--k out of [his] life” or she’d “get hurt,” she also alleged in the suit.
Priest called the case “preposterous.”
“She completely fabricated a story … in an attempt to obliterate my life,” Priest said. “At one point she said to me she wasn’t going to stop until she saw me in the gutter.”
The 41-year-old, however, acknowledged the lawsuit emerged as he was trying to finalize a divorce, which he said Cooper “exploited.”
“I was in a troubled marriage at the time and she exploited that and the threats kept going on and on,” Priest said. “The further and further I tried to keep away from her, she filed this crazy lawsuit. [It] did its damage, and she just walked away. She didn’t pursue it at all.”
The case was dismissed in March 2018 after both parties failed to appear for court hearings, according to the Daily News.
Priest said the lawsuit destroyed his reputation; he was “spit on,” forced to change his number, and was widely ridiculed, he stated. The former Wall Street businessman has since remarried and now lives in New York City’s suburbs.
On Monday, Cooper reported a black birdwatcher in a racialized phone call to New York police dispatchers, claiming she feared for her life, after the man had politely asked her to leash her dog. During her recorded exchange with an emergency operator, she repeated the words “African-American” numerous times to describe Christian Cooper (of no relation) while her canine frantically thrashed about at her feet.
“I’m going to tell them there’s an African-American man threatening my life,” she told him, who filmed the encounter and posted it to social media, while punching the keypad of her cell phone.
No arrests were made in the incident, a spokesperson for New York City Police Department confirmed with Oxygen.com. However, the news of incident quickly went viral and Amy Cooper was roundly condemned.
She ended up being fired from her job at the investment firm Franklin Templeton.
The dust-up drew criticism from Mayor Bill de Blasio, who called for a probe of the incident, which he called "racism, plain and simple." The New York City Commission On Human Rights later announced an investigation had been opened on behalf of the city.
“At a time when the devastating impacts of racism in Black communities have been made so painfully clear — from racial disparities in COVID-19 outcomes, to harassment of essential workers on the frontlines — it is appalling to see these types of ugly threats directed at one New Yorker by another,” Sapna V. Raj, deputy commissioner of the Law Enforcement Bureau at the NYC Commission on Human Rights said in a statement.
She also lost her dog, following the incident, the New York Times reported. Cooper was widely ridiculed, as well, earning herself the now infamous moniker, “Central Park Karen” — the slang term used to describe entitled white women.
Oxygen.com was unable to reach Amy Cooper for comment.
Video of the troubling confrontation since racked up more than 43 million views on Twitter. The clip reignited a heated nationwide discussion about how white people have, at times, used their privilege and skin color to weaponize police against African-Americans — often putting their lives in danger.
The racially charged Central Park encounter unfolded the same week as the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, who was killed by Minneapolis Police on Monday. His death has since prompted widespread unrest, mass protests, and looting in Minneapolis and St. Paul.
Earlier this month, video footage of unarmed black jogger Ahmaud Arbery’s killing in Georgia also surfaced — and went wildly viral.
Priest, Amy Cooper’s former colleague, insisted that Christian Cooper is lucky he didn’t wind up another victim to “homicide-by-cop.”
“If Mr. Cooper didn’t have that camera with him, his fate would have been worse than mine,” Priest insisted.
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