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Woman Who Falsely Accused Black 14-Year-Old Teen of Stealing Her Phone Pleads Guilty to Hate Crime

Woman Who Falsely Accused Black 14-Year-Old Teen of Stealing Her Phone Pleads Guilty to Hate Crime

A white woman has accepted a plea deal to avoid going to jail after falsely accusing a Black teen of stealing her phone. The plea agreement forced her to admit to perpetrating a hate crime against the then-14-year-old, but she can appeal in a few years if she remains out of jail.

Miya Ponsetto pled guilty on Monday, April 11, to “unlawful imprisonment in the second degree as a hate crime,” a class E felony offense, for an altercation involving a minor, Keyon Harrold Jr., on December 26, 2020.

During the holiday season, the Black youngster was staying with his father, a prominent jazz musician, at the luxury Arlo Soho hotel in New York City when he met the California native.

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The then-22-year-old was convinced that the high school kid had stolen her iPhone despite the lack of evidence.

As a result, she physically detained him in the hotel lobby by tackling him to the ground and verbally assaulting him. Keyon Harrold Sr., the boy’s father, videotaped the incident on his phone and can be heard repeatedly on the video attempting to persuade the woman that his kid did not steal her belongings.

The New York Police Department has released additional footage from a security camera that shows a different side of the assault. The teen is seen in the video attempting to flee her grasp, but instead falls when she tackles him to the ground.

The phone was discovered in an Uber and returned to the woman known as “SOHO Karen” on social media.

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Ponsetto initially appeared to be remorseful for accusing the youngster of stealing. During an appearance with Gayle King on “CBS This Morning,” she later provided confusing messages while apologizing, expressing disbelief that an Uber she was in “miraculously” had it. Her lawyer told the journalist that her client deviated from the script.

“Perhaps it wasn’t him,” she speculated. But, at the same time, how is it that as soon as I’m ordered to leave the premises after accusing this individual of stealing my phone, they suddenly have it when I return?”

When queried about how traumatized Harrold Jr. might have been, she said she and him were close in age, despite the fact that she was about a decade older.

“Is he 14?” Is that what they’re saying? Yeah, I’m 22, and I’ve probably lived roughly the same length of time. She insulted King’s interviewing skills by claiming she wanted a “real interview with genuine questions.” 

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The young woman was arrested for the crime in Ventura County, California, just hours after she was interviewed. The original charges were attempted robbery and grand larceny for trying to take his iPhone, acting in a manner injurious to a child because of the boy’s age and two counts of attempted assault for grabbing and knocking him down.

Those charges were dropped as a result of the agreement.

Under the rules of a different case in California, she was offered and accepted a settlement that required her to stay out of trouble for two years. She must attend counseling sessions and avoid “future engagement with the criminal justice system,” according to the terms of her sentence.

If she follows these requirements, she will be able to replead her case, which means she will be able to return to court and make a fresh plea based on this arrangement, which will decrease the charge to aggravated harassment in the second degree, a class A misdemeanor. Her record will be cleared of the first charge. If she does not comply, she faces a sentence of 1 1/3 to 4 years in a New York state prison.

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The woman’s behavior was described as “outrageous” by Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg.

He remarked, “As a Black man.” “I have personally encountered racial profiling on numerous occasions during my life, and I sympathize with the young man who was the victim of this incident.”

“By addressing the fundamental reasons of Ms. Ponsetto’s behavior and ensuring that this conduct does not recur, this plea ensures adequate accountability for Ms. Ponsetto.”

Her lawyer from Paul D’Emilia’s firm revealed the settlement on Twitter in March.

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“Miya Ponsetto has reached a plea agreement that will allow her to avoid jail time, according to reports. Paul D’Emilia said his client intended to go ahead with the deal, but she’d have to go back to New York to sign the plea agreement in person.”

Ben Crump, Harrold Jr.’s attorney, says the bargain is an example of a flawed discriminating system, calling the plea offer “very disappointing” on Twitter.

The civil rights lawyer posted on social media, “We won’t change the culture until we hold people accountable for their extremely terrible behavior.”

D’Emilia disagrees, feeling that the DA was gracious to her client.

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In a statement, the lawyer added, “We are delighted that today’s proceeding brought this unfortunate misunderstanding closer to a definitive conclusion.”

Ponsetto is now employed as a receptionist in Southern California and is believed to be “living an exemplary life” since the event with the young man about a year ago.

With the young woman, the Harrold family will have their day in court.

Ponsetto, Arlo Soho hotel, its owner business Quadrum Hospitality Group, hotel manager Chad Nathan, and others were named as defendants in a civil case filed in the Supreme Court of New York in March, alleging racial profiling and violations of New York City and State Human Rights Laws. In addition, she is charged with assault, violence, intentional infliction of mental distress, false imprisonment, carelessness, and loss of service, according to the lawsuit.

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