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Crime News

Protesters Call For Charges Against 'SoHo Karen' Over NYC Phone Attack As Reports Of Her Prior Alcohol-Fueled Arrests Emerge

“Think about the trauma that my son now has to carry,” Keyon Harrold Jr.’s father wrote on Instagram after Miya Ponsetto erroneously accused his son of swiping her iPhone. 

By Dorian Geiger
Najee Ali Ap

The woman who tackled a Black teenager at a boutique hotel in New York in December after wrongly accusing him of stealing her phone has a history of allegedly drunken hotel standoffs. 

Miya Ponsetto, who’s been dubbed “SoHo Karen” after a video of last month’s troubling encounter in a hotel lobby went viral, was arrested for public drunkenness at a Los Angeles hotel last year, Beverly Hills police confirmed to Oxygen.com. 

The 22-year-old and her mother allegedly refused to leave L.A.’s Peninsula Hotel in February, Beverly Hills police said, and they were both subsequently charged with public drunkenness. Ponsetto’s mother, Nicole Ponsetto, was also arrested for assaulting a police officer during the incident.

Ponsetto is also currently on parole related to a separate past drunk driving arrest in California in May, according to the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station. 

Ponsetto was wanted for questioning by New York police in December in the incident’s immediate aftermath. On Saturday, a number of civil rights protesters marched at Los Angeles Police Department’s North Hollywood Station calling for her arrest.

On Dec. 26, Ponsetto accused 14-year-old Keyon Harrold Jr. of stealing her iPhone in the lobby of New York’s Arlo Hotel. In videos of the incident, Ponsetto can be seen grabbing and shoving the teen in the hotel’s entrance. She later wrestles the teen to the ground.

Ponsetto’s phone was later recovered by an Uber driver, according to the boy’s family. She’d apparently left it in the vehicle after being dropped off.

“She kept insisting that he show her his phone, alleging that it belongs to her and saying that ‘he's not leaving’ until they prove that they didn't steal her phone,” the family’s attorney, Ben Crump, said in a statement. “This incident continued for more than five minutes, with the woman scratching Mr. Harrold, and grabbing and tackling Harrold's son.”

Videos of the encounter quickly went viral.

“Are you kidding me? Do you feel like there’s only one iPhone made in the world?” The boy’s father, Keyon Harrold Sr., can be heard saying to Ponsetto in the heated exchange.

Keyon Harrold Sr., a Grammy-winning jazz trumpeter, described Ponsetto as a “lunatic.” He claimed that hotel employees initially defended Ponsetto, despite her having checked out of the hotel days earlier. He characterized the attack on his son as racially motivated.

“Think about the trauma that my son now has to carry,” he wrote on Instagram.

New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio called the encounter “plain and simple” racism. 

“It would be horrific at any age, but it’s especially offensive that it happened to a child,” the mayor tweeted. 

Ponsetto appears to have returned to California and has been largely silent since the incident. The teen’s family said that she has not reached out to apologize.

The New York Post did confront Ponsetto in a McDonald’s parking lot in Piru, California. She declined to comment on the incident or whether she regretted her actions, but she did inform the tabloid that she is 22 years old and Puerto Rican. 

“Does that justify what you did?” a reporter asked before Ponsetto slammed an SUV’s door.