The California woman who falsely accused a Black teenager of stealing her phone in a SoHo hotel last year was indicted on hate crime charges by a Manhattan grand jury.
At a video hearing on Wednesday, Miya Ponsetto, 22, pleaded not guilty to the charges, which include unlawful imprisonment as a hate crime, aggravated harassment, and endangering the welfare of a child.
In December, Ponsetto was seen on video lunging at Keyon Harrold Jr. — the 15-year-old son of famed jazz musician Keyon Harrold — while claiming the teen swiped her iPhone inside the lobby of the Arlo Hotel. The phone was later returned by an Uber driver.
On Saturday, December 26, the woman in this video falsely accused an innocent 14-year-old teenager of stealing her cellphone. She then proceeded to physically attack him and fled the location before police officers arrived on scene. pic.twitter.com/qtZZWetBWH
— Chief Rodney Harrison (@NYPDChiefOfDept) December 31, 2020
Footage of the incident quickly went viral, earning Ponsetto the moniker “SoHo Karen.” In an interview with Gayle King, the young woman said her allegation, and attempt to grab Harrold Jr., had nothing to do with race.
“I wasn’t racial profiling whatsoever,” she said. “I’m Puerto Rican. I’m, like, a woman of color. I’m Italian, Greek, Puerto Rican.”
Ponsetto was arrested the following day in California, after reportedly fleeing from police and attempting to slam her car door on a deputy’s leg. She was not initially charged with a hate crime — a decision that Harrold’s family and several civil rights lawyers opposed. The charges were later updated to include two counts of second degree unlawful imprisonment as a hate crime.
In a statement, a lawyer for Ponsetto, Paul D’Emilia, accused Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance of a “brazen and clear overreach of the intent of the statute.”
“As truly violent criminals maraud and run rampant through New York City, this DA exhibits zero interest in law enforcement and prosecution,” D’Emilia said. “Instead, he turns his prosecutorial fury on a distraught and panicked young woman stranded without her lifeline, her phone, thousands of miles from home.”
Ponsetto was freed without bail, but warned by the judge that she would face additional charges if she did not attend her next hearing in October.
Inquiries to the Harrold family were not returned.