California Woman Pleads Guilty to Hate Crime After Falsely Accusing Black Teen of Phone Theft

A white woman from California, who falsely accused a Black teenager of stealing her phone in a viral 2020 incident, pleaded guilty to a hate crime charge, officials said on April 11.

Miya Ponsetto, 23, pleaded guilty to unlawful imprisonment in the second degree as a hate crime, but she can plead again to have the charge reduced to misdemeanor aggravated harassment if she follows the terms of the agreement, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg announced.

If Ponsetto violates the agreement, she could face up to four years in prison, Bragg said.

The charges stemmed from a December 2020 incident in which Ponsetto falsely accused Keyon Harrold Jr., then 14, of stealing her iPhone at the Arlo Soho hotel in Manhattan.

A viral video showed Ponsetto, dubbed as “Soho Karen,” lunging at, tackling, and shouting at the teenager, whose father, Keyon Harrold, was a jazz musician and a hotel guest.

Ponsetto’s phone was later found in an Uber and was returned.

“Ms. Ponsetto displayed outrageous behavior. As a Black man, I have personally experienced racial profiling countless times in my life and I sympathize with the young man victimized in this incident,” Bragg said.

“This plea ensures appropriate accountability for Ms. Ponsetto by addressing underlying causes for her behavior and ensuring this conduct does not reoccur,” Bragg further said.

Ponsetto’s lawyer Paul D’Emilia described the incident as an “unfortunate misunderstanding” and said that the misdemeanor harassment charge “more realistically reflects her actions that night at the Arlo Hotel.”

Prominent civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who represents the Harrold Jr., said in a statement that it was “highly disappointing” that Ponsetto would only receive probation.

“We won’t change the culture until we hold people accountable for their outrageously bad behavior,” Crump said.

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