Manhattan, NY – Two New York police detectives will travel across the U.S. on Wednesday to search for a woman who wrongfully accused a 14-year-old boy of stealing her cell phone in the lobby of a SoHo hotel late last month, the department has confirmed (videos below).
Footage of 22-year-old Miya Ponsetto’s attack on 14-year-old Keyon Harrold Jr., the son of Grammy-winning jazz musician Keyon Harrold quickly went viral, KABC reported.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said the Dec. 26 incident was “racism, pure and simple,” according to the New York Post.
Ponsetto, who has since been dubbed “SoHo Karen,” is now wanted for questioning by the New York Police Department (NYPD).
The incident occurred at the Arlo SoHo Hotel after Ponsetto realized she couldn’t find her cell phone, WNBC reported.
Ponsetto immediately jumped to the conclusion that someone stole it, so she demanded to see the boutique hotel’s surveillance footage to help find the culprit, CNN reported.
She instructed another bystander to “empty their pocket,” then honed in on Keyon and accused him of having her phone in his pocket, she told CNN.
“That’s when everything got a little bit more serious,” Ponsetto said.
The teen’s father began recording the scene, which showed the irate woman coming towards them and demanding to see the phone Keyon was holding – which was actually his, CNN reported.
Ponsetto alerted a hotel employee and told him to get her phone for her.
“Literally get it back for me, please,” she told him in the video.
The elder Harrold blocked her attempt and refused to allow hotel personnel to see his son’s phone.
They tried to leave the lobby, at which point Ponsetto charged at them and declared she wasn’t going to let them “walk away with my phone,” CNN reported.
The boy’s father said Ponsetto attacked them and scratched his neck before she grabbed his son and tackled the teen to the floor.
The teen suffered minor injuries in the assault, but is otherwise safe.
“I don’t know what would have happened if my Dad wasn’t there, honestly,” Keyon said in an interview, according to CNN. “Why would she do something like this to a kid who has never met you at all?”
Moments after the attack, a ride-share driver showed up at the hotel to return Ponsetto’s phone to her, because she had invertedly forgotten it in the vehicle, CNN reported.
She claimed she was the one who was assaulted during the altercation, but did not provide CNN with evidence proving her claim as she promised to do.
Ponsetto’s attorney, Sharen Ghatan, blamed the incident on her client’s history of panic attacks, TMZ reported.
She said Ponsetto was visiting her father in New York City for Christmas, and that she panicked when she realized she didn’t have a way to navigate the city without her phone.
The entire confrontation was related to Ponsetto’s anxiety attack – not because of racism, Ghatan told TMZ.
“She was a scared girl alone in a city she doesn’t know and lost her one point of contact for her numbers,” Ghatan told WCAU. “She lost her mind for a hot minute. She is sorry.”
The attorney further alleged that the entire incident could have been avoided if the rideshare driver had just gotten Ponsetto’s phone back to her quicker, WCAU reported.
Ponsetto shut off her phone on Wednesday and stopped responding to messages from her mother and Ghatan, the attorney told TMZ.
She said they are both worried about Ponsetto’s well-being and alleged people have showed up at her house, followed her, and threatened her in recent days.
The NYPD detectives who are flying to California to speak with Ponsetto do not have a warrant for her arrest, according to the New York Post.
They are planning on questioning her, but might end up arresting and extraditing her back to New York depending on the answers she provides them, a source told the paper.
Police sources said she could face attempted robbery, assault, or grand larceny charges, but that the most likely outcome would probably be a third-degree attempted robbery charge, the New York Post reported.
Ponsetto, who is already facing potential jail time due to two 2020 DUI charges, has a history of belligerent outbursts in public, TMZ reported.
Activists and the Harrolds’ civil rights attorney, Benjamin Crump, have demanded that the Manhattan District Attorney investigate the incident, according to WNBC.
“So often black men get stereotyped as not being there for our children,” Crump said last week. “Well thank God that we have video documentation that we are here for our children and that we love our children just as much as anyone else loves their children.”
The teen’s mother, Kat Rodriguez, said she is heartbroken over what her son has been through, WNBC reported.
“This incident could have ended very differently. We have seen this end very differently,” Rodriguez said. “I pray for the mothers and fathers that have lost their sons to racial injustice. I cannot begin to imagine how you feel because I know how I feel right now.”
The hotel has also apologized to the Harrolds for the “inexcusable experience” they endured, WNBC reported.
“We’re deeply disheartened about the recent incident of baseless accusation, prejudice and assault against an innocent guest of Arlo hotel,” the hotel said in a statement, according to CNN. “In investigating the incident further, we’ve learned that the manager on duty promptly called the police regarding the woman’s conduct and that hotel security intervened to prevent further violence …. No Arlo guest — or any person — should be subject to this kind of behavior.”
Crump has demanded that a civil rights investigation be launched into the Arlo Hotel due to “its implicit bias in its treatment of Keyon,” CNN reported.
Watch the incident unfold in the videos below. Warning – Obscene Language:
Part 3 of 4 Original footage of Miya Ponsetto attacking 14 yr old @ Arlo Hotel falsely accusing 14 yr old of stealing her iPhone which was later returned to her from her ride share driver 🤦🏽♂️ #MiyaPonsetto #KeyonHarrold #KeyonHarroldJr #ArloHotel #TheSavageRoom #Savage pic.twitter.com/ZD8Aw5LbRQ
— The Savage Room (@The_SavageRoom) January 4, 2021
On Saturday, December 26, the woman in this video falsely accused an innocent 14-year-old teenager of stealing her cellphone. She then proceeded to physically attack him and fled the location before police officers arrived on scene. pic.twitter.com/qtZZWetBWH
— Chief Rodney Harrison (@NYPDDetectives) December 31, 2020