Precious Fondren, New York Times, July 1, 2021
A California woman who falsely accused a teenager of stealing her phone and then attacked him at a New York City hotel was charged with a hate crime on Wednesday.
Miya Ponsetto, 22, pleaded not guilty to two counts of second-degree unlawful imprisonment as a hate crime, one count of second-degree aggravated harassment and one count of endangering the welfare of a child. She was arraigned in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan over video call.
Ms. Ponsetto gained widespread attention after a video was released of her confronting Keyon Harrold Jr., then 14, in the lobby of the Arlo Hotel in SoHo in December.
In the video, which was recorded by Keyon’s father, the prominent jazz musician Keyon Harrold, Ms. Ponsetto, who is of Puerto Rican and Vietnamese descent, tackles the teenager, who is Black, after accusing him of stealing her phone.
She can be heard yelling in the video, “No, I’m not letting him walk away with my phone!”
The phone was later found and returned by an Uber driver.
Ms. Ponsetto had already been charged with attempted robbery, grand larceny, acting in a manner injurious to a child and attempted assault earlier this year, but the office of Cyrus R. Vance Jr., the Manhattan district attorney, brought additional charges, including hate crimes charges, on Wednesday.
Mr. Harrold said his family was moving forward with a lawsuit against the Arlo Hotel and Ms. Ponsetto.
“I’m feeling hopeful,” he said in an interview on 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 to see that there’s work being done to change things is something so positive.”
“When people are falsely accused, it powers the system of injustice and powers the system of inequality,” he said. “And it marginalizes people of color disproportionately.”