Gay birdwatcher who fell victim to a ‘Central Park Karen’ won’t help officials prosecute her because she’s ‘suffered enough’
The gay Black birdwatcher threatened by ‘Central Park Karen’ Amy Cooper has refused to cooperate in her prosecution, saying she has “already paid a steep price”.
Christian Cooper (no relation) went viral in May when he filmed a confrontation with a white woman in Central Park. After refusing his polite request to put a leash on her dog, she proceeded to make a hysterical 911 call claiming “an African-American man is threatening my life”.
The case was seen as emblematic of America’s systemic racism and police brutality, and within 48 hours Amy Cooper had lost her job, her dog and her reputation.
On Monday (July 6), the Manhattan district attorney’s office charged her with falsely reporting an incident in the third degree, a crime punishable by up to a year in jail.
“We are strongly committed to holding perpetrators of this conduct accountable,” said Cyrus R. Vance Jr., the Manhattan district attorney.
But Christian Cooper has announced that he is refusing to participate in her prosecution and has had “zero involvement” in the case against her.
Christian Cooper doesn’t want a pile-on.
In a statement to The New York Times, he said the consequences Amy Cooper has already faced were enough and that his assistance with the investigation would be “piling on”.
“On the one hand, she’s already paid a steep price,” he said on Tuesday (July 7). “That’s not enough of a deterrent to others? Bringing her more misery just seems like piling on.”
“If the DA feels the need to pursue charges, he should pursue charges. But he can do that without me,” he added.
Remember Racist Amy Cooper, ???the white woman in Central Park who called police on a Black man who was bird watching… Well… she’s being charged with filing a false report pic.twitter.com/atgsUCDPBm #KarensGoneWild #Karenisgoingtojail #BlackLivesMattter
— san (@sanosbo1) July 6, 2020
His decision to take the moral high ground has divided commentators. While some have praised his grace and compassion towards the woman who would have had him falsely arrested, others have said that a criminal prosecution would set an example to others.
“If the police believed she was really being attacked, they could have come in with guns drawn and she would have been the only witness in this — outside of that video that may or may not have surfaced,” said Gloria J. Browne-Marshall, a professor of constitutional law at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
“This isn’t just about Christian Cooper. The community has been harmed by the actions of Amy Cooper and, in order to rectify this, then the people of New York need to have their day in court, even if Christian Cooper is a reluctant witness.”
New York mayor Bill de Blasio also said he supported the district attorney’s decision to press charges.
“Her racist behaviour could have had dire consequences for a Black man,” he said. “Glad she’ll face consequences of her own.”
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But Josie Duffy Rice, president of nonprofit website The Appeal, disagreed. She said that bringing criminal charges against Amy Cooper legitimises a criminal justice system that she considers to be flawed and racist.
“Ask yourself what criminal charges can do to Amy Cooper that hasn’t already been done?” she wrote in a tweet.
“Has she not faced consequences? She did something absolutely horrible and she lost her job, her dog, her personal business was on the front page of the paper.”
Christian Cooper’s decision not to cooperate may present some challenges for prosecutors, but the video footage alone could provide ample evidence against her.
She was issued a desk appearance ticket and will be arraigned on October 14. If convicted, she would likely be given a conditional discharge or sentenced to community service or counselling rather than jail time.