Atty Says NYC Hotel Confrontation Wasn't ‘Race Related' as NYPD Heads to LA

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An attorney for the woman who was seen falsely accusing acclaimed jazz musician Keyon Herrold's son of stealing her phone in a New York City hotel has identified her client and police are on their way to interview the woman in Los Angeles.

LA-based attorney Sharen Ghatan on Tuesday confirmed to NBC News that 22-year-old Miya Ponsetto was in NYC to visit her father when she lost her phone in an Uber. Ghatan blamed the rideshare and said that if the phone had been returned 15 minutes earlier, the incident, which Mayor Bill de Blasio described the case as a clear example of racism, wouldn't have occurred.

In a one-minute video recorded by Harrold, Ponsetto is seen confronting Harrold's 14-year-old son, who is Black, at the Arlo Hotel in SoHo on Dec. 26, 2020. The 40-year-old musician said Ponsetto physically assaulted them, though it wasn't captured on camera.

Ghatan says the incident wasn't "a race related issue," and that Ponsetto was scared and anxious because she was alone and didn't know anyone in the city.

“Miya is young, She let her emotions get the best of her. That phone could have been in hand of 90-year-old grandma, an Asian person.. someone Black or blue. It wasn’t a race related issue. Things took a life of their own," Ghatan said in a phone call.

The attorney added that Ponsetto is of Puerto Rican descent who works “9-5 at a typical place” and "not a young lady of privilege."

“She was a scared girl alone in a city she doesn’t know and lost her one point of contact for her numbers. She lost her mind for a hot minute. She is sorry," Ghatan said.

Ghatan suggested that Ponsetto will speak publicly when the time is right, but right now her client is "fragile."

Meanwhile, NYPD officials are heading to LA to interview Ponsetto about the incident, which they said last week isn't being investigated as a bias incident despite calls from the Harrolds who are working with noted civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump.

In an online petition, more than 100,000 people have joined Crump's call to Manhattan District Attorney to investigate the attack.

"So often Black men get stereotyped as not being there for our children. 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," Crump said last week as he urged accountability.

Harrold says he got scratches on his hands and his son, though physically unhurt, was emotionally traumatized by the repeat accusations and the hotel's response.

"No 14-year-old boy should feel threatened by anybody," the boy's mother, a teacher named Kat Rodriguez, said last week. "When an incident arrives like this in the classroom, I hear everyone's side of the story."

"It breaks my heart that this is happening to our son. This incident could have ended very differently. We have seen this end very differently," she added. "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 since apologized to Harrold and his son for the "inexcusable experience" they endured.

Ponsetto's attorney have not been contacted by law enforcement or any other attorneys with regard to the incident at the end of last year, adding that Ponsetto “wants to move forward and put this behind her."

Ghatan is also representing Ponsetto in a Beverly Hills case in which a hearing is scheduled later this month. The 22-year-old was arrested in February 2020 and charged with battery and public intoxication alongside her mother Nicole Ponsetto, according to documents obtained by NBC LA and NBC News.

Civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump and musician Keyon Harrold hold a rally in City Hall to protest against an alleged false accusation of theft and attack on his son by a woman at an upscale hotel last week. News 4's Tracie Strahan reports.
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