Patterico's Pontifications

7/6/2020

Woman from Viral Central Park Video Criminally Charged in a Case of Prosecutorial Overreach

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:31 pm



As always, I speak for myself and not for my office. See the disclaimer on the sidebar? Now, with that out of the way:

New York Times:

When Amy Cooper, a white woman, called 911 from an isolated patch in Central Park where she was standing with her unleashed dog on Memorial Day, she said an “African-American man” was threatening her life, emphasizing his race to the operator.

Moments before Ms. Cooper made the call, the man, Christian Cooper, an avid bird-watcher, had asked her to leash her dog, and she had refused.

On Monday, Ms. Cooper was charged with filing a false report, a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail, the latest fallout from an encounter that resonated across the country and provoked intense discussions about how Black people are harmed when sham reports to the police are made about them by white people.

That framing loads the dice nicely! The article assumes her report was a “sham” and constructs a narrative that the only issue is how we react to that sham.

Before we discuss why her phone call may not have been a sham at all, some throat-clearing is in order here, in this era of mob reactions and a total lack of reason. So here goes. I do not approve of the way either party handled this incident. I think Ms. Cooper made a racial thing out of it when, as far as I can tell, race should have had nothing to do with it. She should have had her dog on a leash. Sitting comfortably in my living room chair watching the video, my reaction is that I personally don’t think she ought to have felt threatened or that she should have called 911. And I think her threat to tell the police that an African American man was threatening her was despicable and, again, injected race into the situation when it shouldn’t have been.

But now that Ms. Cooper has been criminally charged it’s time to look at the other side of the coin. And it begins with looking at how people react when they are told: “Look, if you’re going to do what you want, I’m going to do what I want, but you’re not going to like it.”

Kyle Smith at National Review presented the other side on May 27, and while I do not agree with his overall view of the case (that it was “Covington 2.0” which would make Ms. Cooper entirely innocent and the wholly wronged party) nor with several aspects of what I am about to quote, it seems beyond dispute that it sets forth some uncomfortable facts about the way Mr. Cooper behaved by his own admission:

News accounts have repeatedly characterized Ms. Cooper as having “threatened” Mr. Cooper. That is the opposite of what happened. We know this because of Mr. Cooper’s helpful Facebook post on the matter, from which I quote:

ME: “Look, if you’re going to do what you want, I’m going to do what I want, but you’re not going to like it.”

HER: “What’s that?”

ME [to the dog]: “Come here, puppy!”

HER: “He won’t come to you.”

ME: “We’ll see about that.” . . . I pull out the dog treats I carry for just such intransigence. I didn’t even get a chance to toss any treats to the pooch before Karen scrambled to grab the dog.

Possibly it was an overreaction for Ms. Cooper to call the police. Then again, when citizens feel threatened, calling the police and letting them sort it out is what is supposed to happen. What Mr. Cooper said to her was unmistakably a threat. It was reasonable for her to be scared. “I’m going to do what I want, but you’re not going to like it”? That’s a menacing thing to say. He then called the dog over while offering it a treat. He meant her to think he was going to poison her dog to motivate her to leash the animal. By his own admission, he said something calculated to frighten her. Apparently, he does this all the time; he carries dog treats while birding “for just such intransigence.” If there were no threat linked to his offering the dog a snack, he would not have prefaced this action by saying, “You’re not going to like it.” He didn’t say, “Look, let’s be reasonable here, I’ll even give your dog a nice snack to show I mean well.” Mr. Cooper intended to scare Ms. Cooper, he succeeded, and in her fear she called the cops.

I assume that Kyle Smith is accurately quoting the Facebook post in question; I have never seen the post itself but neither have I seen this account disputed. I actually agree that what Mr. Cooper said was “unmistakably a threat” — when you tell someone they aren’t going to like what you’re about to do, that’s a threat — but a threat to do what? My guess is: it was a threat to a) record Ms. Cooper and put the recording on the Internet, and/or b) to lure her dog to him so he could physically grab it, march it over to her, and demand that she leash it, which she should have done to begin with. I don’t think it’s reasonable to view the comment as a physical threat — but again, I say that from the comfort of my living room chair.

But I have talked about this to people — woman, particularly — who do see that language as threatening. And it’s not only females who see the comment as threatening. Kyle Smith clearly does.

And I suspect that Ms. Cooper did at the time.

And, by the way, it takes the New York Times until literally the end of their article — the last two paragraphs — even to allude to the arguably threatening language used by Mr. Cooper:

She added that when Mr. Cooper said she would not like what he was “going to do next” and then offered her dog treats, she assumed he was threatening her. Mr. Cooper said the remark was merely meant to signal that he planned to offer the treats.

“I assumed we were being threatened when all he had intended to do was record our encounter on his phone,” Ms. Cooper said.

There is a part of me that wants to say: I don’t think she found it as terrifying as she seems to portray it in the call, or she would likely have run away. But I’ve learned through long experience that you never know exactly how people are going to react in moments of stress, and forming opinions that person x cannot possibly have felt emotion y because every human who experiences emotion y inevitably reacts by committing action z … life doesn’t work like that.

But the bottom line is, if you are going to say to a woman in an isolated area: “Look, if you’re going to do what you want, I’m going to do what I want, but you’re not going to like it” and then you try to lure her dog from her, you can’t really be shocked if she finds that a bit threatening.

And proving beyond a reasonable doubt that she had a criminal intent to deceive the police? In normal times, I would say: good luck trying to prove that! (In fact, I did say that tonight on Twitter.) But maybe the mob mentality is enough to get her to plead guilty, or even to convince an irrational jury to ignore the full context and do what the mob demands. Who knows any more?

If this case were brought to me, either as a threats case against Mr. Cooper or as a false reporting case against Ms. Cooper, based on what I have seen in the public record, I would file no charges against anyone. I would chalk it up to a combination of less than ideal behavior on both sides, combined with a dash of racism on Ms. Cooper’s part, and a heaping helping of misunderstanding. I would tell all parties to do better in the future and go about their lives.

But in the era of social media, the mob must have its say, and it seems to me that the Manhattan D.A. is bowing to the mob. I think it’s disgraceful and a terrible overreach and an abuse of power.

New Trump Campaign Ad

Filed under: General — Dana @ 6:29 pm



[guest post by Dana]

How about a new Trump campaign ad:

It’s short, to the point, and sends a clear warning message of impending doom if Biden is elected because his supporters are demanding police departments be defunded. Elect Trump or there will be no one to answer your 911 calls! You will be left to die! While the ad ignores the fact that this civil unrest and frustration with the police did not happen on Biden’s watch, but rather on Trump’s watch, I guess what voters have to ask themselves then, is: WWJD? (What would Joe do…if he were sitting in the White House?) One thing we do know, much to the consternation of Democrats and any number of Biden supporters (and I suspect Trump’s re-election campaign members), is that according to Biden himself, he does not believe in defunding police:

And we must urgently address the abuse of power in police departments. I commend the leaders in the Democratic Party in Congress for proposing legislation that includes vital reforms: banning chokeholds, ensuring prosecutors in police-involved killings are independent, collecting data regarding police use of force and violations of use of force standards, and requiring training for officers regarding racial and religious bias and their duty to intervene if another officer is abusing his or her power.

While I do not believe federal dollars should go to police departments violating people’s rights or turning to violence as the first resort, I do not support defunding police. The better answer is to give police departments the resources they need to implement meaningful reforms, and to condition other federal dollars on completing those reforms.

I’ve long been a firm believer in the power of community policing — getting cops out of their cruisers and building relationships with the people and the communities they are there to serve and protect. That’s why I’m proposing an additional $300 million to reinvigorate community policing in our country. Every single police department should have the money it needs to institute real reforms like adopting a national use of force standard, buying body cameras and recruiting more diverse police officers.

And we need to prevent 911 calls in scenarios where police should not be our first responders. That means making serious investments in mental health services, drug treatment and prevention programs, and services for people experiencing homelessness. That may also mean having social service providers respond to calls with police officers.

–Dana

While Trump Goes On The Attack, Bubba Wallace Instructs The Next Generation (ADDED)

Filed under: General — Dana @ 1:10 pm



[guest post by Dana]

From the President of the United States:

Eh, I guess Trump missed this response from Wallace last month:

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany offered this defense of the president today when asked about his position on NASCAR:

REPORTER: “What is the president’s position? Does he think NASCAR made a mistake by banning the Confederate flag?”

MCENANY: “I spoke to him this morning about this and he said he was not making a judgment one way or the other. The intent of the tweet was to stand up for the men and women of NASCAR, the fans and those who have gone in this rush to judgment of the media to call something a hate crime when in fact the FBI report concluded this was not an intentional racist act. It very much mirrors other times where there’s been a rush to judgment, let’s say with the Covington boys or with Jussie Smollett.”

REPORTER: “Let’s drill down on the Confederate flag. Does he think it was a mistake for NASCAR to ban it?”

MCENANY: “The president said he wasn’t making a judgment one way or the other. You’re focusing on one word at the very bottom of the tweet that’s completely taken out of context and neglecting the complete rush to judgment.”

Here is a video exchange of McEnany and ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jon Karl, who disagrees with McEnany’s claim that he took anything out of context in his questions about the president:

McEnany also equated NASCAR’s banning of the Confederate flag with “cancel culture,” because of course she did:

The president wants no part of cancel culture…He stands against the demonization of Americans.

Further:

McEnany would not respond to repeated follow-up questions about why Wallace should apologize, considering that he was not the one who found the noose in the garage or the one who reported it, per an AL.com timeline of events.

While the FBI determined that the noose had been in place as a pull rope in a Talladega garage since October 2019 and thus was not intended for Wallace, NASCAR’s president confirmed that it “was real” and that it moved quickly to launch an investigation in order to “protect” its driver.

From Bubba Wallace, after Trump’s tweet. Wallace’s tweet was addressed to the next generation and little ones following my foot steps.#LoveWins :

Untitled (Recovered)

Anyway, it shouldn’t be so difficult for the President of the United States to say good on NASCAR for making a timely decision about the Confederate flag. But to take this confrontational stand, and point to “cancel culture” while unfairly demanding Wallace “apologize,” let’s us know that he is stirring the pot for his loyal sycophants [Ed. excludes those who voted for him as the lesser of two evils as opposed to those who really love the guy and what he stands for.] I guess it makes sense when you consider the various disasters he currently faces: His poll numbers are on a downhill slide, the pandemic hasn’t ended (no matter how much he tries to make us believe it has), and Russia and China are making his life miserable, among others. Thus, with the election just months away, my takeaway from all of this is that support for the Confederate flag is the hill upon which he is willing to make a stand. Because at the end of the day, it’s all about politics, and what he can benefit most from.

–Dana

The Mixed-Messaging That Health Care Professionals “Grapple” With

Filed under: General — Dana @ 11:24 am



[guest post by Dana]

I’ve written about the conflict of health care professionals condemning protesters rallying against the lockdown (and to re-open the economy) and health care professionals sanctioning protests after the murder of George Floyd. In the latter, they often cited, not the science, but rather the greater good involved. Here’s a look at these health care workers “grapple” with trying to reconcile their conflicting views:

As the pandemic took hold, most epidemiologists have had clear proscriptions in fighting it: No students in classrooms, no in-person religious services, no visits to sick relatives in hospitals, no large public gatherings.

So when conservative anti-lockdown protesters gathered on state capitol steps in places like Columbus, Ohio and Lansing, Michigan, in April and May, epidemiologists scolded them and forecast surging infections. When Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia relaxed restrictions on businesses in late April as testing lagged and infections rose, the talk in public health circles was of that state’s embrace of human sacrifice.

And then the brutal killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis on May 25 changed everything.

Soon the streets nationwide were full of tens of thousands of people in a mass protest movement that continues to this day, with demonstrations and the toppling of statues. And rather than decrying mass gatherings, more than 1,300 public health officials signed a May 30 letter of support, and many joined the protests.

That caused the public to ask: Was public health advice in a pandemic dependent on whether people approved of the mass gathering in question? For me, it’s an uphill climb to believe that the advice of any number of health care professionals wasn’t contingent upon a subjective view of the protests in question.

Journalist Thomas Chatterton Williams pinpoints the why:

The way the public health narrative around coronavirus has reversed itself overnight seems an awful lot like … politicizing science. What are we to make of such whiplash-inducing messaging?

But lets hear about the struggle for reconciling this whiplash-messaging from the professionals themselves:

Catherine Troisi, an infectious disease epidemiologist at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, studies COVID-19. When, wearing a mask and standing at the edge of a great swell of people, she attended a recent protest in Houston supporting Floyd, a sense of contradiction tugged at her.

“I certainly condemned the anti-lockdown protests at the time, and I’m not condemning the protests now, and I struggle with that,” she said. “I have a hard time articulating why that is OK.”

Mark Lurie, a professor of epidemiology at Brown University, described a similar struggle.

“Instinctively, many of us in public health feel a strong desire to act against accumulated generations of racial injustice,” Lurie said. “But we have to be honest: A few weeks before, we were criticizing protesters for arguing to open up the economy and saying that was dangerous behavior.

“I am still grappling with that.”

To which Ashish Jha, dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health, added: “Do I worry that mass protests will fuel more cases? Yes, I do. But a dam broke and there’s no stopping that.”

And about the letter that 1,300 epidemiologists and health care workers signed:

Some public health scientists publicly waved off the conflicted feelings of their colleagues, saying the country now confronts a stark moral choice. The letter signed by more than 1,300 epidemiologists and health workers urged Americans to adopt a “consciously anti-racist” stance and framed the difference between the anti-lockdown demonstrators and the protesters in moral, ideological and racial terms.

Those who protested stay-at-home orders were “rooted in white nationalism and run contrary to respect for Black lives” the letter stated.

By contrast, it said, those protesting systemic racism “must be supported.”

“As public health advocates,” they stated, “we do not condemn these gatherings as risky for COVID-19 transmission. We support them as vital to the national public health.”

Note: “There is as of yet no firm evidence that protests against police violence led to noticeable spikes in infection rates. A study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research found no overall rise in infections, but could not rule out that infections might have risen in the age demographic of the protesters. Health officials in Houston and Los Angeles have suggested the demonstrations there led to increased infections, but they have not provided data. In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio has instructed contact tracers not to ask if infected people attended protests.”

And yet health care professionals are willing to cast a vote for the “moral imperative,” no matter who it might impact, because it is seen as the greater good:

Mary Travis Bassett, who is African American, served as the New York City health commissioner and now directs the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University. She noted that even before COVID-19, Black Americans were sicker and died more than two years earlier, on average, than white Americans.

And she noted, police violence has long cast a deep shadow over African Americans. From the auction block to plantations to centuries of lynchings carried out with the complicity of local law enforcement, blacks have suffered the devastating effects of state power.

She acknowledged that the current protests are freighted with moral complications, not least the possibility that a young person marching for justice might come home and inadvertently infect a mother, aunt or grandparent.

“If there’s an elder in the household, that person should be cocooned to the best extent that we can,” Bassett said.

But she said the opportunity to achieve a breakthrough transcends such worries about the virus.

“Racism has been killing people a lot longer than COVID-19,” she said. “The willingness to say we all bear the burden of that is deeply moving to me.”

Nicholas A. Christakis, professor of social and natural science at Yale University, observes that there are actually two moral imperatives involved for health care professionals: To comfort the afflicted and to speak truth about risks to public health, no matter how unpleasant.

To that end he says that those two values are now in conflict:

To take to the street to protest injustice is to risk casting open doors and letting the virus endanger tens of thousands, he said. There is a danger, he said, in asserting that one moral imperative overshadows another.

“The left and the right want to wish the virus away,” Christakis said. “We can’t wish away…inconvenient scientific truths.”

He said that framing the anti-lockdown protests as white supremacist and dangerous and the George Floyd protests as anti-racist and essential obscures a messier reality.

When he was a hospice doctor in Chicago and Boston, he said, he saw up close how isolation deepened the despair of the dying — a fate now suffered by many in the pandemic, with hospital visits severely restricted. For epidemiologists to turn around and argue for loosening the ground rules for the George Floyd marches risks sounding hypocritical.

“We allowed thousands of people to die alone,” he said. “We buried people by Zoom. Now all of a sudden we are saying, never mind?”

–Dana

SCOTUS: States Can Bind Electors

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:29 am



AP:

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Monday that states can require presidential electors to back their states’ popular vote winner in the Electoral College.

The ruling, just under four months before the 2020 election, leaves in place laws in 32 states and the District of Columbia that bind electors to vote for the popular-vote winner, as electors almost always do anyway.

I have little to say about this. It seems relatively uncontroversial, but it’s worth noting.


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