Manhattan Supreme Court Prosecutors announced on Tuesday Feb. 16 that they were no longer pursuing charges against Amy Cooper, the white woman caught on video last May calling the police on a Black man who was watching birds in Central Park.
Cooper, charged with falsely reporting an incident in the third degree, completed five “psychoeducation and therapy” sessions and did not have a prior criminal history, Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi said. Allegedly, these sessions helped Cooper “appreciate that racial identities shape our lives” and that “we cannot use them to harm ourselves or others,” NBC reported.
Illuzi deemed Cooper’s educational classes as a component of restorative justice, an alternative to the retribution-based model of traditional U.S. justice that is based more on reconciliation and righting a wrong.
“Having completed the restorative justice program to our satisfaction, we now move to dismiss,” Illuzzi said.
Cooper would have faced up to a year in jail if convicted. Cooper’s defense lawyer Robert Barnes tweeted, thanking the New York District Attorney’s office for their “integrity” in dropping charges, but condemned others who sought to press charges against Cooper.
“Others rushed to the wrong conclusion based on inadequate investigation & they may yet face legal consequences,” he foreboded.
After a thorough & honest inquiry, the New York DA's office dismissed all charges today against #AmyCooper. 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.
— Robert Barnes (@barnes_law) February 16, 2021
In late May, the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis Police officers Derek Chauvin, J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao once again reiterated the disproportionate targeting of Black men by law enforcement. Still on the same day Floyd made headlines, Cooper tried to weaponize the police on another Black man, Christian Cooper (who is not related to her). Christian Cooper was birdwatching in Central Park when he asked Amy Cooper to put her dog on a leash. In most areas in the park, it’s a requirement for dogs to be leashed. As Amy Cooper grew agitated and dragged her dog by the collar, Christian Cooper began filming. Amy Cooper demanded he stop and called the police.
“I’m taking a picture and calling the cops,” Amy Cooper can be heard saying in the video. “I’m going to tell them there’s an African American man threatening my life.”
The video went viral on social media. Since then, Christian Cooper has not spoken much about this incident and did not take part in the pressing of charges. In an interview with The New York Times after the incident, he said, “I’m not excusing the racism. But I don’t know if her life needed to be torn apart.”
Still, many feel Amy Cooper’s behavior was a flagrant act of racism that threatened the Black community during an especially volatile time. She was immediately fired from her job at the investment firm Franklin Templeton. The Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., decided to prosecute Amy Cooper without Christian Cooper.
In May, Amy Cooper told CNN that the video being shared “destroyed” her entire life.
“I think I was just scared,” she said. “When you’re alone in the Ramble, you don’t know what’s happening. It’s not excusable, it’s not defensible.” She added that she wanted to “publicly apologize to everyone.”
Research shows police violence is a leading cause of death among Black men in the U.S. A 2017 study revealed that Black men are viewed as larger and more threatening than same-sized white men, and that in a hypothetical situation, many believed police would be more justified in using force to subdue them, even if they were unarmed.
Eliza Orlins, a current candidate for Manhattan District Attorney, took to Twitter today to express that she wasn’t surprised by the prosecutors’ decision.
“This is how the system was designed to function — to protect the privileged from accountability,” she said.
Remember Amy Cooper, who called the cops on a Black man out birdwatching? This morning, her case was dismissed.
This isn't surprising. This is how the system was designed to function — to protect the privileged from accountability. https://t.co/Z39kJ8oRCI
— Eliza Orlins (@elizaorlins) February 16, 2021