BY: MEREDITH DELISO, ABC NEWS
(NEW YORK) — A California woman faces multiple charges for allegedly falsely accusing a Black teenager of stealing her cellphone and physically attacking him inside a New York City hotel last month.
Miya Ponsetto was charged in Manhattan Saturday with two counts of attempted assault, attempted robbery, grand larceny and endangering the welfare of a child.
The charges are not eligible for bail, but she will need to follow supervised release and was ordered to have no contact with the alleged victims.
Her next court appearance in New York will come March 29.
Ponsetto, 22, was arrested in her hometown of Piru, California, on Thursday, after fleeing the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department as it tried to make a traffic stop on a fugitive warrant for her arrest, officials said. Once she stopped in front of a home, she put up a fight and resisted arrest, authorities told ABC News. During a virtual court appearance on Friday, she agreed to be extradited to New York.
The charges stem from a Dec. 26 incident at the Arlo SoHo Hotel that’s gained national attention. Keyon Harrold, a Grammy-winning trumpet player, was staying there with his 14-year-old son when he said Ponsetto approached his son in the lobby to accuse him of stealing her phone. Harrold recorded part of the encounter on his phone and shared the video on social media.
In the video that Harrold recorded, a woman later identified by authorities as Ponsetto could be seen yelling at the teen and lunging at him. Harrold’s son could also be heard denying that he stole the phone.
Ponsetto’s cellphone was ultimately found by an Uber driver, according to national civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who is representing the Harrold family.
“As this year of racial awareness is drawing to a close, it’s deeply troubling that incidents like this one, in which a Black child is viewed as and treated like a criminal, continue to happen,” Crump said in a statement following the incident.
ABC News was unable to reach Ponsetto following her hearing.
In an interview with “CBS This Morning” that aired Friday, Ponsetto apologized for her actions.
“I don’t feel that that is who I am as a person. I don’t feel like this one mistake does define me,” she said during the interview, which was filmed Thursday before her arrest. “But I do sincerely from the bottom of my heart apologize that if I made the son feel as if I assaulted him or if I hurt his feelings or the father’s feelings.”
Ponsetto’s former attorney, Sharen Ghatan, said in a statement to ABC News Thursday that she was “extremely concerned” about Ponsetto’s mental state. “It is clear that she is emotionally unwell,” she said.
In an interview Friday with “Good Morning America,” Harrold Jr.’s parents said they were grateful for Ponsetto’s arrest this week.
“She should have been arrested a long time ago, but I am grateful that she is arrested,” his mom said.
Harrold Jr. said he was “happy that justice will be served.”
Crump and Harrold Jr.’s parents have also accused the hotel staff of improperly handling the situation.
“This is a good development, but management of @ArloHotels — owned by Quadrum Global — gave power to Miya’s racist actions and must also be held accountable!!” Crump tweeted Saturday after Ponsetto was charged.
After the incident, the hotel chain apologized to Harrold in an Instagram post and said it was investigating further.
“We’re deeply disheartened about the recent incident of baseless accusation, prejudice and assault against an innocent guess of Arlo Hotel,” said the statement. “We want to apologize to Mr. Harrold and his son for this inexcusable experience.”
Ponsetto was also arrested in California three times in 2020, though she’d never been arrested prior to last year. On Feb. 28, she was arrested for public intoxication after getting into a fight outside a hotel, according to charging documents. She was charged with driving under the influence on May 29 after someone called police when they saw her get into a car leaving a grocery store while apparently intoxicated. She was pulled over and found with open containers of alcohol and marijuana in her car and was charged with driving with a suspended license, according to the charging documents.
Her third arrest last year came on Oct. 10 when she was charged with DUI, driving with a suspended license and resisting arrest. She had allegedly got into a physical altercation with her mother after leaving her car abandoned at a nearby intersection and then tackled a responding officer to the ground. Her blood alcohol limit was 0.14, almost twice the legal limit, police said.
ABC News’ Alex Stone, Aaron Katersky and Sabina Ghebremedhin contributed to this report.
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