White Woman Pleads Guilty in Alleged Racist NYC Hotel Confrontation With Black Teen

Miya Ponsetto was at the Arlo Hotel when she got into a confrontation with then-14-year-old Keyon Harrold Jr., whom she accused of stealing her phone; a confrontation erupted -- her phone was later found in an Uber

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The California woman charged with a hate crime for allegedly wrongly accusing a Black teen of taking her phone at a Manhattan hotel in December 2020 and grabbing at him as he tried to leave has pleaded guilty, the district attorney's office said Monday.

Miya Ponsetto had previously pleaded not guilty last summer to charges including unlawful imprisonment as a hate crime, aggravated harassment and child endangerment in the fray that unfolded at the Arlo Hotel with then-14-year-old Keyon Harrold Jr.

Video shows her grabbing at him as he tried to get away. Her phone was found soon afterward in an Uber.

The Manhattan district attorney's office offered Ponsetto a plea deal in February, one that would require the 23-year-old to lead a "law-abiding life" for the next two years, which includes compliance with California probation officers in relation to another case, and continue to receive counseling. She would face prison time if she were to violate terms of the agreement.

Ponsetto pleaded guilty to that felony hate crime charge, the top count against her, District Attorney Alvin Bragg announced Monday.

"This plea ensures appropriate accountability for Ms. Ponsetto by addressing underlying causes for her behavior and ensuring this conduct does not reoccur,” said Bragg, adding that "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's office said it would agree to her withdrawing the plea to the felony charge in exchange for a second-degree aggravated harassment guilty plea, which is a misdemeanor. She also wouldn't be subject to any additional jail time, according to the deal.

Ponsetto did not answer questions as she left court Monday with her attorney.

Keyon Harrold, the victim's father, wrote in an Instagram post after the guilty plea was announced that their "fight for justice...has always been an uphill battle," and that they plan to continue their other lawsuits.

"My son and our family deserve more than an apology after being wrongfully and aggressively attacked in the lobby of the Arlo hotel. For Ms. Ponsetto to describe the unprovoked assault as a 'mistake' minimizes the trauma that Keyon, Jr. continues to feel to this day. However, we not only blame Ms. Ponsetto for the attack, but the Arlo Hotel for allowing it to escalate and to go on unabated," the post read. "The only way we can get individuals and corporations to change the culture of systemic racism is to hold them accountable for their actions each and every time. A clear message that this sort of abhorrent behavior will not be tolerated needs to be made, period."

In an Instagram post of his own, Harrold family attorney Ben Crump called it "highly disappointing that Miya Ponsetto was permitted to plea down, only receiving probation. We won't change the culture until we hold people accountable for their outrageously bad behavior."

The Piru woman was arrested in January 2021 on other charges in connection with the confrontation involving Harrold Jr. She initially seemed to apologize but later backed off in a tense interview on a morning CBS news show.

The teenager's family previously filed a lawsuit against Ponsetto and the hotel, alleging racial profiling. It alleged he was “violently accosted” by Ponsetto and that hotel manager Chad Nathan helped her and demanded that the teenager turn over his phone for inspection. The lawsuit's status wasn't immediately clear Monday.

The hotel has since apologized to the teenager and his father, a noted jazz musician, for the "inexcusable experience" they endured.

The parents of the Black teenager falsely accused of stealing a woman's phone are demanding action. They're now calling for a boycott of the hotel where it happened. NBC New York's Gus Rosendale reports.
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