Woman pleads guilty to hate crime after falsely accusing black teen of stealing phone

The California woman named “SoHo Karen” after she falsely accused a black teenager of stealing her cell phone in New York City has pleaded guilty to a charge of hate crime, officials said Monday.

Miya Ponsetto, 23, has admitted to illegal prison “as a hate crime” but can plead guilty again and reduce the charge to misdemeanor increased harassment if she has no problems for two years, Manhattan prosecutors said.

A viral video showed Ponsetto on Keyon Harrold Jr., then 14, lunged, approached and shouted, accusing her, without proof, of taking her iPhone.

The incident took place in December. 26, 2020, in the lobby of Arlo Soho, an upscale boutique hotel hosting the teenager and his father, Keyon Harrold, a jazz musician.

Miya Ponsetto has been identified as the woman who falsely accused Keyon Harrold's son of phone theft.
Miya Ponsetto has been identified as the woman who falsely accused Keyon Harrold’s son of phone theft.Keyon Harrold

It was later discovered that Ponsetto, who is white, left her phone in an Uber car, and the device was returned to her. The incident is held as a symbol of racial profiling.

“Ms. Ponsetto has shown scandalous behavior. As a black man, I have personally experienced racial profiling countless times in my life and I sympathize with the young man who is the victim of this incident,” Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said in a statement Monday. .

“This plea provides for appropriate liability for Ms. Ponsetto by addressing the underlying causes of her conduct and ensuring that this conduct does not recur.”

Ben Crump, a teen lawyer, said in a statement that it was “very disappointing” that Ponsetto will only get probation.

“We will not change the culture until we hold people accountable for their outrageously bad behavior,” he said.

The New York case piggybacks on a former DUI case in California in which Ponsetto is serving probation and under supervision.

Ponsetto, a receptionist in Southern California, is grateful for the deal, said her attorney, Paul D’Emilia.

“We are pleased that today’s proceedings have brought this unfortunate misunderstanding closer to a final resolution,” D’Emilia said in a statement. “Miya Ponsetto has led an exemplary life since this incident with the young man almost a year and a half ago.”

Ponsetto hopes the victim “accepts her regret and apology for her behavior that evening, and that all involved can move forward,” D’Emilia said.

If Ponsetto does not meet her probation conditions, she could face up to 1⅓ to 4 years in prison, prosecutors said.

Tim Stelloh contributed,

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