Woman who falsely accused Black bird watcher in Central Park sues ex-employer

By Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK (Reuters) -The white woman who falsely told police that a Black bird-watcher threatened her in New York City's Central Park sued her former employer Franklin Templeton, saying it fired her without doing a fair investigation and falsely portrayed her as racist.

Amy Cooper said in a Tuesday night complaint that Franklin Templeton's actions following the May 25, 2020, encounter substantially harmed her career, and caused such severe emotional distress that she became suicidal.

"Plaintiff's personal and professional life has been destroyed by the knowingly false statements defendants made," said the complaint filed in Manhattan federal court.

Cooper, 41, who had been an insurance portfolio manager, is seeking unspecified damages for race and gender discrimination, defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligence.

Franklin Templeton, part of Franklin Resources Inc, said it would defend against Cooper's "baseless" claims, including against Chief Executive Jenny Johnson.

"We believe the circumstances of the situation speak for themselves and that the company responded appropriately," it said in a statement.

Lawyers for Cooper declined to comment.

Cooper's confrontation with the bird-watcher Christian Cooper went viral after a video emerged of her appearing agitated, calling the police and saying "there's an African-American man threatening my life."

She made the call after Christian Cooper, who is not related to her, asked her to leash her dog to comply with park rules.

Franklin Templeton fired Cooper the next day, saying it did not condone racism.

Cooper had worked for the company in New York since 2015, and said she received "countless" phone and text threats after its phone system gave callers her cellphone number.

The video has been seen on Twitter more than 45 million times.

It was taken the same day a Minneapolis policeman killed George Floyd, sparking nationwide protests about racial injustice.

Manhattan prosecutors charged Amy Cooper last July with filing a false police report.

They dropped the misdemeanor charge in February after Cooper completed therapy that included instruction on not using racial bias.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Howard Goller)