A woman who made national headlines after she was captured on video tackling a Black teenager she falsely accused of stealing her cellphone has been charged with a felony hate crime.
Miya Ponsetto, 22, was filmed grabbing the 14-year-old son of jazz trumpeter Keyon Harrold in the lobby of a Manhattan hotel last December.
She angrily demanded that her cellphone be returned to her. In fact, Ponsetto had left her phone in an Uber, and it was later returned to her, according to police. She left the hotel after the confrontation, and the New York Police Department launched a search for her.
Ponsetto, who was visiting New York, was found in her hometown of Piru, California. She was initially charged in New York City earlier this year with attempted robbery, grand larceny, acting in a manner injurious to a child and two counts of attempted assault.
A New York grand jury indicted Ponsetto on the additional charges this week. They include two counts of unlawful imprisonment as a hate crime, endangering the welfare of a child and aggravated harassment, according to the indictment shared with CNN by the Manhattan district attorney’s office.
Ponsetto’s attorney, Paul D’Emilia, pleaded not guilty on her behalf, CNN reported.
In a statement, D’Emilia called the charges against his client a “brazen and clear overreach of the intent of the statute. In sum, they are absurd, and a perversion of our legal system.”
Ponsetto conceded in an interview early this year that “maybe” she shouldn’t have yelled at the teen and that she hadn’t intended to “hurt him or his father.” But she later appeared to backtrack on that and indicated that perhaps the teen was somehow linked to the disappearance of her phone.
Harrold, who played trumpet on the Grammy-winning soundtrack to the 2015 Miles Davis biopic “Miles Ahead,” also filmed part of the scene involving Ponsetto with his cellphone as he tried to protect his son.
The Harrolds didn’t issue a statement after the new charges were announced against Ponsetto, but they had posted messages at the time expressing their anger at the hotel confrontation.
“I am furious!!! We see this crap happening all the time, but it hits different when it hits home!!!” Harrold wrote then on an Instagram post that included his video of the scene.
The family has filed a civil suit against Ponsetto, the Arlo Hotel and the hotel manager, alleging violations of the state’s human rights laws and other wrongs.
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After the police released the hotel surveillance video of the confrontation last year, Police Chief Rodney Harrison said the then-unknown woman “falsely accused an innocent 14-year-old teenager of stealing her cellphone… then proceeded to physically attack him and fled the location.”
Ponsetto is reportedly on supervised release until her next court date in October, according to her attorney, CNN reported.
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