Woman who falsely accused Black teen of stealing cellphone pleads guilty to hate crime

(NEW YORK) — Awoman who attacked a Black teen at a luxury New York City hotel after falsely accusing him of stealing her cellphone has pleaded guilty to hate crime charges.

Miya Ponsetto, 23, was charged with child endangerment, attempted assault, attempted robbery and grand larceny after she wrongly accused and physically attacked the 14-year-old son of Grammy-winning trumpet player Keyon Harrold on Dec. 26, 2020, at the hotel where Harrold and his family were staying.

In a video recorded by Harrold, 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 as numerous witnesses attempted to intervene.

Ponsetto’s cellphone was later found by an Uber driver, national civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who is representing the Harrold family, announced after the incident.

Ponsetto was arrested on Jan. 7, 2021, in her hometown of Piru, California, after fleeing from Ventura County Sheriff’s Department deputies as they tried to make a traffic stop on a fugitive warrant for her arrest, officials said. The next day, she agreed to be extradited to New York.

On Monday, she pleaded guilty to unlawful imprisonment as a hate crime.

Ponsetto apologized for her actions in an interview with “CBS This Morning” that aired in January 2021.

“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 shortly 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 in January 2021 that she was “extremely concerned” about Ponsetto’s mental state.

“It is clear that she is emotionally unwell,” Ghatan said.

Ponsetto was previously arrested in California three times in 2020. In February 2020, she was arrested for public intoxication after getting into a fight outside a hotel, charging documents show.

In May 2021, she was charged with driving under the influence after someone called police when they saw her get into a car leaving a grocery store while apparently intoxicated. Police found open containers of alcohol and marijuana in her car when they pulled her over, according to charging documents.

Ponsetto was arrested a third time in October 2020 after she 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. She was charged with DUI, driving with a suspended license and resisting arrest, and her blood alcohol limit was 0.14, almost twice the legal limit, police said.

In a statement Monday, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg described Ponsetto’s behavior at the New York hotel as “outrageous.”

“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.”

Currently, Ponsetto faces up to four years in prison but can plead down to a misdemeanor after abiding by the terms of her probation in a separate case in California for the next two years.

ABC News could not immediately reach an attorney for Ponsetto for comment.

ABC News’ Meredith Deliso and Marlene Lenthang contributed to this report.

 

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