The charges against a woman who called police on a black birdwatcher in Central Park last year, falsely claiming he had attacked her, have been dismissed after she participated in a “restorative justice” program focusing on racial bias, prosecutors said.
Manhattan assistant district attorney Joan Illuzzi-Orbon asked a judge to dismiss the charges against Amy Cooper Tuesday in a motion that was then granted, according to a transcript of the court hearing obtained by Oxygen.com.
Amy Cooper was offered the “restorative justice solution” due to her lack of a criminal record and the fact that she had been facing a misdemeanor in connection with the May 25 incident, Illuzzi-Orbon said in court.
The educational solution was “designed not just to punish but to educate and promote community healing,” the prosecutor said.
Amy Cooper made headlines and sparked national backlash in May after video taken by Black birdwatcher Christian Cooper showed her placing a frantic call to police in Central Park, claiming that he had been “threatening me and my dog.”
The incident reportedly began after Christian Cooper had asked Amy Cooper — no relation — to put her dog on a leash in accordance with park rules.
Amy Cooper refused and told Christian Cooper that she planned to call police.
“I’m going to tell them there’s an African-American man threatening my life,” she can be heard saying in the video before placing the frantic call.
After she hung up the phone, Illuzzi-Orbon said Amy Cooper received a follow-up call from police, who were trying to determine what happened. During that call, she told police that a man had tried to assault her and her dog, a claim Illuzzi-Orbon said was “objectively not true.”
Police arrived at the scene and Amy Cooper admitted that Christian Cooper had never tried to assault her, however, the situation could have had much more dire consequences, Illuzzi-Orbon acknowledged.
“The defendant had already given a physical description of Mr. Cooper and the police could have easily found him before they spoke further to the defendant,” she said. “The police would have been in a position where they thought that Mr. Cooper had tried to assault the defendant. Certainly, he would have been held and forcibly if he resisted.”
Amy Cooper was later charged with filing a false report and the backlash against her was swift. Her employer, Franklin Templeton, soon announced she had been fired and she temporarily lost custody of her dog after the video showed her visibly struggling with the pet throughout the encounter.
Amy Cooper issued a public apology for her actions during a CNN appearance in May.
“I am not racist,” she told the outlet. “I did not mean to harm that man in any way.”
Christian Cooper condemned her actions on Facebook and called the incident “unmistakably racist” in an interview with “CBS This Morning,” but later refused to cooperate with the prosecution of the case.
“Mr. Cooper did not wish to participate in the criminal justice process but we determined that the defendant’s offense wasn’t solely against one individual but was a threat to the community if allowed to go unchecked,” Illuzzi said. “The simple principle is that one cannot use the police to threaten another and in this case, in a racially offensive and charged manner.”
Before the charges were dismissed, Illuzzi-Orbon said Amy Cooper participated in education and therapy services that focused on ways that she “could appreciate that racial identities shape our lives but we cannot use them to harm ourselves or others.” The programming also focused on racial equity and promoted understanding, she said.
“Having completed five sessions, Ms. Cooper’s therapist reported that it was a moving experience and that Ms. Cooper learned a lot in their sessions together,” Illuzzi-Orbon said.
Amy Cooper’s attorney Robert Barnes agreed with the prosecution’s decision to dismiss the charges in a statement he posted on Twitter.
“After a thorough & honest inquiry, the New York DA’s office dismissed all charges today against #AmyCooper,” he said. “We thank them for their integrity & concur w/ the outcome. Others rushed to the wrong conclusion based on inadequate investigation & they may yet face legal consequences.”
It was not clear in his comments who the “others” were that he referenced in the statement.
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