A California woman who wrongly accused a Black teen of taking her phone at a New York City hotel late last year and grabbed at him as he tried to leave is now charged with a hate crime.
Miya Ponsetto was arraigned in court in Manhattan via videoconference Wednesday and pleaded not guilty to charges including unlawful imprisonment as a hate crime, aggravated harassment and endangering the welfare of a child.
Ponsetto was at the Arlo Hotel in December when she got into a confrontation with a teen, 14-year-old Keyon Harrold Jr., whom she accused of stealing her phone. Video shows her grabbing at him as he tried to get away. Her phone was found soon afterward in an Uber.
Ponsetto, of Piru, California, was initially arrested in January on other charges in connection with the confrontation. The 22-year-old initially seemed to apologize, but later backed off in a tense interview with “CBS This Morning” co-host Gayle King.
“I wasn’t racial profiling whatsoever,” Ponsetto told King. “I’m Puerto Rican. I’m, like, a woman of color.”
Her next court date is scheduled for Oct. 20.
“The charges alleged are a brazen and clear overreach of the intent of the statute,” her attorney, Paul D’Emilia, said in a statement. “In sum, they are absurd, and a perversion of our legal system.”
The family of the teen has filed a lawsuit against Ponsetto and the hotel, alleging racial profiling.
His father, musician Keyon Harrold, told King that Ponsetto’s arrest was “only the first step in a very big conversation that needs to happen here in America that has to do with racial profiling.”
“If I had done that, what Miya Ponsetto had done to my son, I’d be in jail now,” he said. “If I had hurt her in any way, I’d be in jail now. We wouldn’t even be able to have this conversation. As a Black man, every day I walk outside, I have to play the perfect game, almost like throwing a no-hitter, just to be believed.”
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