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‘SoHo Karen’ Regrets Hotel Confrontation With Black Teen Over Phone, Is In Therapy

“She continues to get the kind of help that she wants,” Paul D’Emilia, Miya Ponsetto’s attorney, told Oxygen.com this week. 


By Dorian Geiger
‘SoHo Karen’ Charged, Extradited To New York

The California woman who allegedly assaulted a Black teenager after wrongly accusing him of stealing her phone at a Manhattan hotel last year “feels terrible” nearly a year later, her attorney says.

Miya Ponsetto, 23, briefly appeared in-person at Manhattan Supreme Court on Monday. She is facing hate crime charges stemming from the 2020 incident. 

Ponsetto gained nationwide notoriety after video of her aggressively confronting 14-year-old Keyon Harrold Jr. at SoHo’s Arlo Hotel went viral. Ponsetto was indicted on second-degree unlawful imprisonment as a hate crime, according to an indictment obtained by Oxygen.com. She pleaded not guilty in June.

“The case continues on,” Paul D’Emilia, who is representing Ponsetto, told Oxygen.com Tuesday morning. “Ms. Ponsetto is definitely taking steps for maybe some issues she has. I think the DA’s office appreciates that and likes to see continued progress and that’s how we’re going for now.”

The Manhattan-based defense attorney told the court on Monday that Ponsetto is undergoing therapy for anger management. 

“She continues to get the kind of help that she wants,” D’Emilia explained. “I continue to inform the court and the DA of this progress and hopefully at the end we’ll get a resolution that everybody’s happy with.”

Ponsetto didn’t speak during her court appearance Monday. D’Emilia said his client “regrets” how she treated the Harrold family and is still reeling from the consequences.

“She’s obviously very upset and very overwhelmed,” D’Emilia said. “She’s been inundated with all kinds of emails and messages, which aren't always the nicest in the world. Everybody regrets any incident that happened that day, especially her. She feels terrible for the young man. And that’s why we’re trying to resolve it.”

Craig Phemister, a lawyer for the Harrold family, however, was adamant Ponsetto had yet to be held accountable for her actions.

"Keyon, Jr. and his family deserve more than an apology after being wrongfully and aggressively attacked in the lobby of the Arlo Hotel," Phemister told Oxygen.com. "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 New York-based lawyer went on to label the incident as blatant racism. 

"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," he added. "A clear message that this sort of abhorrent behavior will not be tolerated needs to be made, period"

Miya Ponsetto

On Dec. 26, 2020, Ponsetto chased, and ultimately tackled Keyon Harrold Jr. in the lobby of the Arlo Hotel, according to surveillance footage. Ponsetto, who had temporarily misplaced her iPhone, accused the teen of swiping her mobile device after crossing paths with him at the SoHo hotel. 

“You have my phone!” Ponsetto shouted at Harrold Jr., according to the case’s criminal complaint, obtained by Oxygen.com. “Give me my phone! Show me your phone!” 

The California woman’s phone later turned up in an Uber, where she’d reportedly left it.

Ponsetto, who was visiting New York from California at the time of the confrontation, was forcibly arrested almost two weeks later by sheriff’s deputies in Los Angeles.

The racially-charged incident, which unfolded only months after the police killing of George Floyd, drew widespread attention — earning her the moniker ‘SoHo Karen.'

Ponsetto denied the incident was fueled by racism. In an explosive televised interview with CBS News anchor Gayle King, the 23-year-old argued it was impossible for her to be racist because she’s a “woman of color.”

“I was approaching the people that had been exiting the hotel because in my mind anybody exiting...might be the one that’s trying to steal my phone,” Ponsetto, who is Puerto Rican, told King. “I admit, yes, I could have approached the situation differently and not yelled at him like that and made him feel some sort of inferior way, and making him feel as if I was like hurting his feelings because that’s not my intention.”

At the time, Ponsetto’s California-based lawyer, Sharen Ghatan, also shot down accusations Ponsetto was racist, insisting the encounter was an overblown miscommunication — and that her client was having an anxiety attack.

“She made a huge mistake — but a bigger mistake would be to make this about race,” Ghatan told Oxygen.com.

Keyon Harrold Sr Keyon Harrold Jr

The family of Keyon Harrold Jr., however, have long dismissed both Ponsetto's and her lawyers' claims.

“The idea of bias and racial profiling in this is a real big elephant in the room,” the boy’s father, Keyon Harrold Sr., told Oxygen.com earlier this year. “If it were me and if I had done something to [Ponsetto], I’d be in jail already. I would have never been able to even leave the premises.” 

Keyon Harrold Sr., a 40-year-old Grammy-winning jazz trumpeter, said his son was permanently scarred by the incident and also required therapy. 

“He’s had a traumatic experience,” Harrold added. “He’ll never forget this. We can’t live this down.”

Ben Crump, the civil rights attorney, who has represented the families of Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, also claimed Ponsetto was using mental health as a crutch to shield herself from the allegations of racial discrimination.

“When a white person does a criminal act, we try to explain it away, they have mental issues,” Crump previously told Oxygen.com. “This is historic.”

Justice Laura Ward adjourned the case’s trial to Jan. 10.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office declined to comment on the open matter on Tuesday.

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