A judge on Tuesday morning dismissed the single misdemeanor charge against Amy Cooper, who last summer called the police on a Black man who asked her to leash her dog in New York’s Central Park.
Cooper faced up to a year in jail if convicted of falsely reporting an incident but instead completed a therapeutic education program, and prosecutors requested the charge be dropped. The program included five therapy sessions, instruction on racial biases and was “designed towards introspection and progress,” Joan Illuzzi-Orbon, a prosecutor in the case, said during a virtual hearing in Manhattan criminal court.
The program, described as an alternative, restorative justice solution, was a common option for first-time offenders facing misdemeanor charges, like Cooper, according to Illuzzi-Orbon. Prosecutors said they would not pursue the case further before the judge dismissed the charge and sealed the case file.
Last May, Cooper and her unleashed dog approached the birdwatcher, Christian Cooper (no relation) — a board member of the Audubon Society — in an on-leash area of the park. Christian Cooper recorded the incident.
Moments later, Amy Cooper warns Christian Cooper that she is about to call the police to “tell them that there’s an African American man threatening my life.” She then calls 911 and repeatedly claims that “an African American man” is threatening her and screams for the police to come.
The incident — which was captured in a video that has since been viewed more than 45 million times — was another chapter in a fraught American legacy of a gendered and racial dynamic dating back to before the country’s inception. The idea that Black men are inherently criminal and White womanhood is to be protected continues to permeate the nation’s imagination.
Shortly after the video surfaced, Amy Cooper, a senior vice president at Franklin Templeton Investments at the time, was forced to temporarily give up her dog and lost her job. At the time, Christian Cooper told the New York Times that he would not cooperate with the criminal investigation because the woman had “already paid a steep price.”
On Tuesday, when asked about Amy Cooper’s case, Christian Cooper said there were more important issues that should concern people, including the battle to make Washington, D.C., a state.
“I am far more outraged by the U.S. Congress, which continues to deny the mostly Black and brown people of the District of Columbia statehood and the representation every American deserves, than by anything Amy Cooper did,” Christian Cooper said in a statement.
Eliza Orlins, a candidate for Manhattan district attorney, said the dropped charge wasn’t surprising.
“This is how the system was designed to function — to protect the privileged from accountability,” Orlins said on Twitter.
After the charge was dropped, Amy Cooper’s lawyer, Robert Barnes, thanked the New York District Attorney’s Office for a “thorough and honest inquiry.”
“We thank them for their integrity and concur with the outcome,” Barnes said in a statement on Twitter. “Others rushed to the wrong conclusion based on inadequate investigation and they may yet face legal consequences.”