California Woman Charged With Hate Crime for Falsely Accusing Black Teen of Phone Theft

A Manhattan court on June 30 has charged a woman with hate crime months after falsely accusing a Black teenager of stealing her phone at a New York City hotel.

In a virtual arraignment, the court charged 22-year-old Miya Ponsetto with unlawful imprisonment as a hate crime, in addition to charges of aggravated harassment and endangering the welfare of a child.

Ponsetto, who is from Piru, California, pleaded not guilty to the charges. Police initially arrested her last January on the other charges related to the incident.

The hate crime charge came months after Ponsetto confronted 14-year-old Keyon Harrold Jr., accusing him of phone theft, at the Arlo Hotel last December.

“Now, after seven months, she will finally be held accountable for her vicious attack,” Harrold’s family attorney Ben Crump said on Twitter.

A viral video recorded and posted by Harrold’s father, Grammy-award winning jazz trumpeter Keyon Harrold Sr., showed Ponsetto yelling and tackling the teenager as he tried to get away.

Harrold’s family filed a lawsuit last March, alleging Ponsetto and the hotel of racial profiling.

Ponsetto initially appeared to apologize for her actions, but she later downplayed her behavior during an exclusive interview on CBS This Morning last January, in which she questioned how her false accusation against Harrold was considered a crime.

In a statement, Ponsetto’s lawyer Paul D’Emilia called the charges “brazen and clear overreach of the intent of the statute.”

“In sum, they are absurd, and a perversion of our legal system,” D’Emilia added.

Ponsetto is scheduled to appear in court again on Oct. 20.

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