Prosecuting Karen—Amy Cooper and the Selective Prosecution of Yasmine Seweid
This op-ed also appears on Law.com.
In 2016, an 18-year old Muslim woman, Yasmin Seweid, falsely reported that three white men screaming “Donald Trump,” calling her a “terrorist” had attacked her on a Manhattan subway and grabbed her hijab. In less than two weeks, NYPD investigators and Manhattan DA prosecutors determined this was a false report and then arrested and prosecuted her. Today, DA Vance has a clear video of Amy Cooper making a false report.
A video has gone viral of Amy Cooper, a 41-year-old white woman, in Central Park telling a black man that she would call the NYPD on him and tell them that “there’s an African-American man threatening [her] life and dog.” What was the crime that Christian Cooper, the black man, committed? He had the audacity to tell her to leash her dog in an area where over 230 bird species populate. While Christian Cooper didn’t commit any crimes, Amy Cooper certainly committed the crime of falsely reporting an incident in the third degree, and Manhattan DA Cy Vance must prosecute her or else he will have engaged in selective prosecution.
In December 2016, an 18-year old Muslim woman, Yasmin Seweid, falsely reported that three white men screaming “Donald Trump,” calling her a “terrorist” had attacked her on a Manhattan subway and grabbed her hijab. In less than two weeks, NYPD investigators and Manhattan DA prosecutors determined this was a false report and then arrested and prosecuted her. Ultimately, this 18-year-old college student pleaded guilty to the crime of falsely reporting an incident in the third degree. In Seweid’s case, there was no video proving she lied, but Vance was swift to make an example of her.
Today, Vance has a clear video of Amy Cooper, whom the internet has dubbed as the latest “Karen,” making a false report. This is an easy one for prosecutors. Yet, NYPD First Deputy Commissioner Benjamin Tucker already gave an interview saying, “We’re not going to pursue that. We’ve got bigger fish to fry […] the DA would never prosecute that.”
Really? Who are these bigger fish? There is no bigger fish than Amy Cooper. The reason she must be prosecuted is that she’s an anarchist. The justice system cannot function with false reports. Cops and prosecutors can’t focus on those who really should be prosecuted and can’t protect the vulnerable like Christian Cooper. The justice system will crash if those whom the system is supposed to protect—lie—it’s the reality version of the Boy Who Cried Wolf. Amy Cooper insults all true crime victims. Without her prosecution, the justice system is delegitimized.
In my career, as a former prosecutor and as a criminal defense attorney, I have seen too many people devastated by false allegations. When I was a prosecutor, my crew at the Brooklyn DA’s office did our best to vet all allegations lest we prosecuted an innocent person. As a criminal defense attorney, I’ve seen many clients whose lives, reputations, and finances were damaged greatly by lying accusers. I have no empathy for those who make false accusations—they should be punished to the fullest extent of the law and made an example of so that others will think twice before making a false accusation.
We all know about the debacle of the Jussie Smollett fake Trump hate crime in Chicago, but far fewer people know about the Yasmin Seweid fake Trump hate crime in Manhattan. Yet, if DA Vance engages in selective prosecution and doesn’t charge Amy Cooper, more people will need to learn about how Yasmine Seweid, an 18-year old Muslim college student was treated differently than Amy Cooper, a 41-year old white investment banker.
Vinoo Varghese, former prosecutor & criminal defense attorney