Amy Cooper, the white woman who called the police for a black bird watcher in Central Park, made a second, previously unreported call to 911 falsely claiming the man “tried to attack her,” a prosecutor said Wednesday .
Ms. Cooper, who appeared in court from afar to answer the offense allegations she had filed, negotiated a plea deal with prosecutors that would allow her to bypass jail.
Joan Illuzzi, a senior prosecutor, said that on her two emergency calls in May, Ms. Cooper used the police in ways that were “both racially offensive and intimidating”
However, Ms. Illuzzi told the court that the Manhattan Attorney’s Office was considering a solution to the case that Ms. Cooper would have to publicly accept responsibility for her actions in court and participate in a program to educate her about her harmfulness.
“We hope this process will elucidate, heal, and prevent similar damage to our community in the future,” said Ms. Illuzzi.
The case was adjourned until November 17 to give Ms. Cooper’s attorney Robert Barnes and prosecutors time to work out the details of an agreement.
The news of the second call was the latest development in the Memorial Day weekend encounter, which had resonated across the country and revived discussions about the potential danger of police making false accusations against black people.
Ms. Cooper was filmed calling 911 from a remote area in Central Park after a black man asked her to put her dog on a leash as the rules required. During the call, she said several times that an “African American man” was threatening her and emphasized his race to the operator when she frantically raised her voice.
The video of the encounter, recorded by man Christian Cooper on his cell phone, has been viewed more than 44 million times. Its timing, the day before national protests erupted in Minneapolis against the assassination of George Floyd, reinforced its role in creating outrage over what many viewed as exemplifying everyday racism.
In July, the Manhattan District Attorney accused Ms. Cooper of filing a false report, an offense that can be punished with up to a year in prison. The criminal complaint was one of the first to face a white person in the United States for wrongly reporting a black person to the police.
“We are determined to hold the perpetrators of this behavior accountable,” Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. said in July.
Her attorney, Mr Barnes, said at the time that she would be found not guilty and criticized what he called a “culture epidemic abandoning”.
“How many lives will we destroy via misunderstood 60-second videos on social media?” he asked.
Mr. Vance’s decision to prosecute Ms. Cooper sparked mixed reactions from black community leaders and supporters of the criminal justice system overhaul. Nor did he have the support of Mr. Cooper, who is a long-standing bird watcher in the city and sits on the board of the New York Audubon Society.
When the episode gained widespread attention among state lawmakers and activists across the country, Ms. Cooper, who had been Franklin Templeton’s director of insurance portfolio management, lost her job and was publicly shamed. She was also forced to temporarily hand her dog over to the rescue team from which she had adopted it.
At the time, Mr. Cooper, a Harvard graduate who works in communications, said the consequences and public backlash she faced were already enough. He did not cooperate with the prosecution’s investigation, saying in a statement in July that “bringing more misery to her seems to be just an accumulation”.
Weeks after the confrontation, New York State lawmakers also passed laws giving people “privilege” if they believe someone has called the police about their race, gender, nationality, or other protected class. The move was in direct response to the Central Park run-in and other false reports to police about black people.
The clash between Mr. Cooper and Mrs. Cooper, who are unrelated, began when he rode his bike to look for birds in a semi-wild part of the park known as the Ramble, where dogs must be kept on a leash. He met Ms. Cooper, who was walking an unleashed dog, and said in a Facebook post that she refused to put the dog on a leash when asked.
He wrote that he offered the dog treats to convince Ms. Cooper to obey the rules of the area. Then the video catches her calling 911 and saying to an operator, “I’m at the Ramble, there’s a man, African American. He has a bicycle helmet and picks me up and threatens me and my dog. “
One day after the incident, Ms. Cooper publicly apologized.
“I reacted emotionally and made wrong assumptions about his intentions when, in fact, I was the one who was acting inappropriately by keeping my dog off a leash,” Ms. Cooper said in the statement. “I am aware of the pain caused by false assumptions and insensitive statements about race.”
Sarah Maslin Nir and Jan Ransom contributed to the coverage.