Miya Ponsetto

Woman Arrested After Falsely Accused Black Teen of Stealing Phone Flown to NYC

A spokesperson for Ventura County Sheriff says Miya Ponsetto was uncooperative, resisted arrest, refused to get out the car and tried to slam the car door on one of the deputies

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The woman who was seen on video falsely accusing acclaimed jazz musician Keyon Herrold's son of stealing her phone has been escorted by police back to New York City two days after her arrest outside Los Angeles, police said.

Miya Ponsetto was flown back to the city through Kennedy Airport early Saturday morning by NYPD detectives who'd traveled to Ventura County to assist in her arrest. She was being held without bail as of Friday for the fugitive assault warrant in New York.

Police said Ponsetto faces charges that include attempted robbery, grand larceny, two counts of attempted assault and endangering the welfare of a child.

A spokesperson for Ventura County Sheriff said deputies contacted Ponsetto at a traffic stop Thursday, but she did not stop until she reached her home. They also said she was uncooperative, resisted arrest, refused to get out the car and tried to slam the car door on one of the deputies as they forcibly removed her from the vehicle.

In an interview conducted on Thursday and aired Friday morning, Ponsetto told CBS that she considers herself to be "super sweet," and that the incident at the hotel doesn't represent who she is. She also apologized to the victim and his family.

“I don’t feel that that is who I am as a person. I don’t feel like this one mistake does define me,” she said. “But I do sincerely from the bottom of my heart apologize that if I made the son feel as if I assaulted him or if I hurt his feelings or the father’s feelings.”

In a different interview with NBC LA, Ponsetto's attorney, Sharen Ghatan, confirmed that Ponsetto wasn't a guest at the Arlo Hotel on Dec. 26, 2020. She had stayed there after arriving in NYC last month to visit her father, checked out, and was hanging out in the lobby with the intention of checking in again. Ponsetto had all of her items out in the lobby and she briefly left to retrieve something from Starbucks she left in the restroom.

When she returned, Ponsetto thought her phone was missing. Ghatan said Ponsetto had asked several people who were in whether they had taken her phone before she told management that her phone is missing.

"She actually asks several other people including an Asian gentleman who was leaving the hotel 'did you see my phone?' And he says no," Ghatan said Thursday. The next people she asked were the Harrolds, who had just come out of the elevator. That's when she went to hotel management to report that her phone was missing and the confrontation escalated.

In the CBS interview, Ponsetto said she had been approaching people exiting the hotel, thinking she was doing her part as a hotel manager reviewed video footage.

“I admit, yes, I could have approached the situation differently or maybe not yelled at him like that, and made him feel, you know, maybe some sort of inferior,” she said, adding that it was not her intention to hurt his feelings.

“OK. I apologize. Can we move on?” she told the morning program, insisting she saw no crime. “How is one girl accusing a guy about a phone a crime?” she asked.

Ghatan, who is also representing Ponsetto and her mother Nicole Ponsetto after they were arrested and charged with battery and public intoxication in Beverly Hills last year, doubled down on Ponsetto having mental health issues and said "she lost her mind" because her phone had everything important on it.

On Tuesday, the attorney confirmed to NBC News that her client actually 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 and a hotel worker is seen confronting Harrold and his 14-year-old son, who are Black. The 40-year-old musician said Ponsetto physically assaulted them, though it wasn't captured in the video. A surveillance video released by police, however, appears to show Ponsetto lunging at and grabbing the teen.

Ghatan said 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.

Reacting to the arrest, the Harrold family released a statement through their attorney, saying in part, “What it is about is significant, societal change. It’s about a system that condones and emboldens racial profiling and considers Black people guilty until proven innocent.”

NYPD officials have said the incident isn't being investigated as a bias incident despite calls from the Harrolds who are working with noted civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump.

"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 the Manhattan District Attorney to investigate the attack.

Harrold said 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.

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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