Woman who left phone in cab and accused Black teen of stealing it is charged with hate crimes

Miya Ponsetto accused Keyon Harrold Jr of stealing her phone in December 2020. She has pleaded not guilty

Maroosha Muzaffar
Thursday 01 July 2021 10:51
<p>File image from January 2021 shows the police booking photo of Miya Ponsetto</p>

File image from January 2021 shows the police booking photo of Miya Ponsetto

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A 22-year-old California woman who accused a Black teenager of stealing her phone after she left it in the back of a taxi has been charged with hate crimes.

On 26 December last year, at Arlo Hotel in New York City, Miya Ponsetto accused Keyon Harrold Jr - the 14-year-old son of Jazz musician Keyon Harrold - of stealing her phone. A viral video of the incident also appeared to show her attacking him. In the video, Ms Ponsetto is seen yelling at Keyon and lunging at him while he denies stealing her phone.

On Wednesday, Ms Ponsetto was arraigned in Manhattan and charged with hate crimes. She pleaded not guilty, appearing for her arraignment virtually.

Ms Ponsetto was arrested on 8 January in California and was charged in Manhattan with two counts of attempted assault, attempted robbery, grand larceny and endangering the welfare of a child. Reports said that she wasn’t charged with a hate crime at that point. However, Harrold subsequently asked for hate crime charges to be levelled against her.

During the arraignment, assistant District attorney Sarah Marquez said a Lyft driver had returned her phone to the hotel, saying it was left in their vehicle.

Ms Ponsetto was indicted by the grand jury of the county of New York on two counts of unlawful imprisonment in the second degree as a hate crime, aggravated harassment in the second degree and endangering the welfare of a child, reports said.

Her attorney, Paul D’Emilia, meanwhile told the media that the hate crime charges against her client were “shameful.”

Ms Ponsetto is due back in court in October.

Mr D’Emilia said: “The charges alleged are a brazen and clear overreach of the intent of the statute. In sum, they are absurd and a perversion of our legal system.”