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A California woman who attacked a Black teenager at a New York hotel in December after she wrongly accused him of stealing her iPhone was forcibly arrested in the Los Angeles area this week.
Miya Ponsetto, 22, earned the moniker “SoHo Karen” by the tabloids after she tackled 14-year-old Keyon Harrold Jr. at the Arlo Hotel in lower Manhattan on Dec. 26.
On Thursday, Ponsetto was arrested by Ventura County sheriff’s deputies on a fugitive warrant in Piru, California, nearly two weeks after the confrontation that went wildly viral. Ponsetto had to be physically pulled from her vehicle, authorities said.
“Deputies used physical force to remove Ms. Ponsetto from her vehicle because she was uncooperative and refused to comply with deputies,” Captain Eric Buschow told Oxygen.com.
Ponsetto could now face additional charges following the allegedly rowdy arrest.
“The matter of her resisting arrest will be taken up with the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office for issuance of a possible warrant at a later time,” he added.
Manhattan prosecutors also confirmed Ponsetto’s arrest. She has not yet been charged as of Friday evening. She appeared in court on Friday and is expected to be extradited to New York in the coming days.
NYPD detectives had descended on Los Angeles after a fugitive warrant had previously been issued for her arrest. It’s unclear what the charges against her will be.
On Dec. 26, Ponsetto, who had misplaced her phone, was in the lobby of Hotel Arlo in New York’s SoHo neighborhood. She quickly locked eyes on Keyon Harrold Jr., a hotel guest who’d come to the lobby with his father to get something to eat. After seeing the Black teen’s own iPhone she apparently mistakenly became convinced it was hers — and attempted to have hotel staff confiscate the boy’s phone before attacking him.
Ponsetto was later filmed frantically chasing 14-year-old Harrold through the hotel entrance in her flip-flops. She later threw the boy to the ground, video footage of the incident shows. Her phone was ultimately recovered from an Uber, where she had left it. Ponsetto is originally from California. She was visiting her father in New York at the time of the alleged attack.
The disturbing encounter sparked national condemnation after videos of the incident were widely shared on social media. The teen’s family, in turn, accused Ponsetto and hotel staff of racial profiling.
“When they asked my son for his phone and did not ask him for his side of the story, that’s when it became a racial issue,” Kat Rodriguez, the teen’s mother, told Oxygen.com. “That would have never happened to a white child — never.”
New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio also labeled the alleged assault “plain and simple” racism.
Ben Crump, the attorney representing the Harrold family, applauded Ponsetto’s arrest. The civil rights attorney previously received more than 100,000 signatures on a petition he authored demanding the woman’s arrest.
“She’s guilty of attempted theft and grand larceny,” Crump said. “She needs to be convicted of a biased-motivated crime against a child.”
“We want to make sure she’s convicted because we want to set a precedent that when these Karens falsely accuse Black people that they’re held accountable, so it can be a deterrent in the future for such outrageous accusations and conduct,” he said.
Similar racially-charged incidents have been thrust into the spotlight in the wake of George Floyd’s death in May. In 2020, Amy Cooper, a white woman, was arrested for allegedly weaponizing police against a Black birdwatcher in Central Park. Cooper, who was subsequently dubbed “Central Park Karen,” was charged with filing a false police report and fired from her job after a video of the incident also went viral.
Keyon Harrold Sr., the teen’s father who witnessed and filmed the encounter, said his son was psychologically scarred by the incident.
“He’s in therapy right now,” Keyon Harrold Sr. told Oxygen.com. “He’s had a traumatic experience. He’ll never forget this. We can’t live this down.”
The teen’s father is also convinced his son was racially profiled. The 40-year-old Grammy-winning jazz musician added that hotel staff empowered and “deputized” Ponsetto.
“The idea of bias and racial profiling in this is a real big elephant in the room,” he explained. “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.”
Ponsetto’s arrest came shortly after she had conducted an interview with CBS News anchor Gayle King in which she half-heartedly offered an apology and shed some light on her actions.
“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 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.”
She described herself as a “super sweet person” and said she regretted her actions — but brushed aside accusations that the altercation was racially motivated. She insisted she'd been attacked by the child’s father, Keyon Harrold Sr., which is an allegation the family vehemently denies.
Ponsetto ended the interview by cutting King off, telling the television host, “enough.” She abruptly left the interview and was taken into custody hours later, according to her attorney.
“It was a surprise to hear that she was arrested because I didn’t hear from her, nor her mother, and I still haven’t,” her lawyer Sharen Ghatan told Oxygen.com.
Ghatan said she’s “uncertain” if she’ll continue to represent Ponsetto. She said her client has been “incommunicado” since her arrest.
“She’s lacking control and restraint,” Ghatan said. “Frankly I don’t know how I can proceed if she continues down this road. She needs the type of help that I can’t give her. She needs mental health assistance.”
Ponsetto reportedly has anxiety and anger issues, according to the California defense attorney. Ghatan previously tried to explain Ponsetto’s assault of the teenager as a “panic attack.” She also denied the incident was racially motivated. Ponsetto is Puerto Rican, according to her lawyer.
Ponsetto does, however, have a public incident leading to an encounter with police on her record.
In February, she and her mother, Nicole Ponsetto, were charged with public intoxication after they refused to leave the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills, police said. Nicole Ponsetto, 41, was also arrested for assaulting a police officer in the incident. The mother-daughter pair haven’t yet entered a plea. Ghatan is representing the Ponsettos in that case, too.
“I can only help clients that want the help,” Ghatan added. “I truly am concerned. I hope she gets the help she needs."
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