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Woman charged with hate crime after falsely accusing Black teen of phone theft

Hate Crime (274663)
Hate Crime

The woman who falsely accused a Black teen of stealing her phone in a New York City hotel in December was arraigned Wednesday on a hate crime, reports NBC News.

Miya Ponsetto, who lives in California, was seen in a viral video lunging at, tackling and shouting that the 14-year-old son of jazz musician Keyon Harrold had stolen her iPhone. The incident took place Dec. 26 in the lobby of Arlo Soho, an upscale, boutique hotel where Harrold and his son, Keyon Harrold Jr., were guests. It was later found that Ponsetto left her phone in an Uber vehicle, and the driver eventually returned it to her.

Earlier this year, she was charged with attempted robbery, grand larceny, acting in a manner injurious to a child and two counts of attempted assault.

On Wednesday, Ponsetto was indicted by a New York County grand jury on two counts of unlawful imprisonment as a hate crime, aggravated harassment, and endangering the welfare of a child. She pleaded not guilty.

Paul D’Emilia, Ponsetto’s attorney, slammed the charges as “absurd” and said District Attorney Cy Vance chose a “craven and opportunistic path in indicting” his client.

“Today marked another low point in out-going Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance’s checkered administration,” D’Emilia said in a statement.

“The charges alleged are a brazen and clear overreach of the intent of the statute. In sum, they are absurd, and a perversion of our legal system. As truly violent criminals maraud and run rampant through New York City, this DA exhibits zero interest in law enforcement and prosecution. Instead, he turns his prosecutorial fury on a distraught and panicked young woman stranded without her lifeline, her phone, thousands of miles from home. Shameful.”

The teen’s father shared a minute-long video of the encounter to his social media. In it, Ponsetto is seen accosting Harrold and his son, yelling, “Show me my phone!” as she follows them in the hotel lobby.

Security camera footage later showed a 10-second clip where Ponsetto appears to put her arms around the teenage boy in an attempt to tackle him to the ground.

The New York City Police Department said the father “sustained scratches to his hand.” Ventura County officers coordinated with the NYPD to arrest Ponsetto on a fugitive warrant in front of her home in Piru, California, in January. Officers forcibly removed Ponsetto from a vehicle, saying she resisted arrest, refused to get out of the car and tried to slam a car door on one of the deputies, according to the Ventura County department.

Video of the encounter with the teen thrust Ponsetto into infamy on the Internet, with many dubbing her the “SoHo Karen” and accusing her of racially profiling the boy.