Woman who attacked black teenage girl at Soho hotel charged with hate crime
A California woman who falsely accused a teenager of stealing his phone and then attacked him at a New York City hotel was charged with hate crime on Wednesday.
Miya Ponsetto, 22, has pleaded not guilty to two counts of unlawful second degree imprisonment as a hate crime, one count of aggravated second degree harassment and one count of endangering the welfare of ‘a child. She was arraigned in the New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan by video appeal.
Ms Ponsetto gained attention after a video of her confronting Keyon Harrold Jr., then 14, was shown in the lobby of the Arlo Hotel in SoHo in December.
In the video, which was recorded by Keyon’s father, prominent jazz musician Keyon Harrold, Ms. Ponsetto, of Puerto Rican and Vietnamese descent, attacks the teenager, who is black, after accusing him for stealing his phone.
He can be heard shouting in the video, “No, I won’t let him go with my phone!”
The phone was later located and returned by an Uber driver.
Ms Ponsetto was previously charged with attempted robbery, robbery, child harm and attempted assault earlier this year, but the office of Cyrus R. Vance Jr., the Manhattan district attorney , laid additional charges, including hate crimes charges, on Wednesday.
“We intend to fight this very vigorously, especially following the embellished charges that District Attorney Vance has brought against Miya Ponsetto,” said Ponsetto’s attorney Paul D’Emilia.
Mr Harrold said his family was moving forward with a lawsuit against the Arlo Hotel and Ms Ponsetto.
“I feel hopeful,” he said in an interview Thursday. “Obviously, as black people, it’s hard to believe in a system and believe that the system will work for me and for my family. But seeing that there is work being done to change things is such a positive thing.
Mr Harrold said he believed the hotel had ’empowered’ Ms Ponsetto and had done nothing to protect his son. A representative for the hotel did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
He said he was still baffled that a day that was supposed to be a fun dad and son outing had derailed.
“Our life changed because someone had the right and the idea that just because of my son’s appearance, he was the one who stole his property, which is so ridiculous,” Mr. Harrold. “It’s been a few months, but every time I talk about it it brings me back to all kinds of emotions, like the fear that if I wasn’t there to protect my son, what could have happened. to pass ?”
Mr Harrold said he hoped his son’s meeting with Ms Ponsetto highlighted how common it is for black people to be harassed simply because they exist in spaces where others think they are. shouldn’t be.
“When people are falsely accused, it fuels the system of injustice and fuels the system of inequality,” he said. “And that disproportionately marginalizes people of color.”
Ms Ponsetto found herself in hot water after being interviewed by Gayle King on “CBS This Morning” and the interview went viral earlier this year.
Ms Ponsetto played down her actions during the interview and suggested that she couldn’t be racist because she was a woman of color. She even raised her hand to silence Ms King at one point, saying ‘enough is enough’.
“It didn’t seem like my accusations bother the son and father because they were having a good meal after this whole encounter,” she said in the interview.
She was arrested in connection with the hotel episode a few hours later.
Ms Ponsetto had also been charged in independent cases in California, where she was charged with public drunkenness, driving with a suspended license and altercations with her mother and police officers.
At Wednesday’s hearing, Ms Ponsetto, who remains on probation in California, spoke in a low voice and said little. His next court appearance is set for October 20.
Ashley Wong and Mihir Zaveri contributed reporting.