White woman who called cops on Black NYC birdwatcher also claimed he 'tried to assault' her: prosecutors

Christian Cooper, a birdwatcher who frequents Central Park, had asked the woman to put her dog on a leash

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NEW YORK – A white woman who was broadly criticized for calling police on a Black birdwatcher in Central Park during a contentious encounter in May – leading to a criminal charge against her – called police a second time and further lied that he “tried to assault” her, prosecutors alleged at her first court appearance here Wednesday.

Amy Cooper drew national scorn and was branded a “Karen” after she was recorded on the man’s cellphone video complaining to a 911 operator that she was being harassed by an “African American man” and that he was threatening her and her dog. She had been walking the dog without a leash in a wooded area of the park where such activity is prohibited, and the man took issue with what she was doing.

Cooper was charged with a misdemeanor count of falsely reporting an incident in the third degree.

The woman “twice reported” that the Black man was putting her in harm’s way, “first by stating that he was threatening her and her dog, then in a second call indicating that he tried to assault her in the Ramble area of the park,” Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi said at Cooper’s arraignment in Manhattan criminal court.

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Cooper appeared in front of a judge – through a remote video feed – for the first time on Wednesday. Seated in front of a bare white wall and wearing a black turtleneck sweater, she answered the judge’s standard questions with “yes, your honor” but did not otherwise address the court.

After the incident, Cooper released an apology, saying she “reacted emotionally and made false assumptions about his intentions,” noting that he had every right to ask that she leash her dog in an area where it was required. “I am well aware of the pain that misassumptions and insensitive statements about race cause and would never have imagined that I would be involved in the type of incident that occurred with Chris.”

Prosecutors said Cooper is in talks to settle her criminal case in a way that “can provide an opportunity for introspection and education.”

The program she is expected to consider is “designed to have the defendant take responsibility for her actions but also educate her and the community about the harm caused by such action,” Illuzzi said. “We hope that this process will enlighten, heal and prevent similar harm to our community in the future.”

Earlier this year, Illuzzi, who is one of the top prosecutors in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, won a conviction for rape and sexual assault against disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.

Illuzzi did not disclose the terms of the deal being discussed with Cooper and her defense attorney, Robert Barnes. The case was adjourned to Nov. 17, when she is slated to accept a deal to settle her case. It could involve pleading to a lesser offense, or to a charge that will later be dismissed if she satisfies the terms of the agreement.

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Amy Cooper called the New York Police Department for help during her encounter with Christian Cooper – no relation – during a confrontation at about 8:15 a.m. on May 25 in a serene wooded area of Central Park. News of the incident broke around the time that George Floyd was killed during a police encounter in Minneapolis, fueling a national movement against racial injustice.

Christian Cooper, a birdwatcher who frequents that area of the park, spotted the woman and asked her to put her dog on a leash. He considered himself a protector of the area, which serves as an urban haven for local fowl. He has said that he tried to lure Amy Cooper’s dog with a treat, which he carried with him for such situations.

The efforts seemed to have escalated the conflict between the two parkgoers.

“He is recording me and threatening myself and my dog,” she said, appearing as frantic on the call with a 911 dispatcher.

Amy Cooper, an Upper West Side resident, was fired from her job at the Franklin Templeton investment firm after the video went viral online. She was widely seen as having used white privilege to get action against the man with whom she was arguing based on the language she used in the call.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office said Wednesday her conduct deserved criminal action.

“Using the police in a way that was both racially offensive and designed to intimidate is something that can’t be ignored,” Illuzzi said Wednesday.

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