Woman who falsely accused Black teen of stealing phone charged with hate crime

The California woman who drew widespread scrutiny after she was seen in viral footage tackling a Black teenager she falsely accused of stealing her phone has been charged with a hate crime.

Miya Ponsetto, 22, was slapped with charges including unlawful imprisonment as a hate crime, aggravated harassment and endangering the welfare of a child. She was arraigned in Manhattan on Wednesday, The Associated Press reported.

According to the AP, Ponsetto pleaded not guilty to all charges.

The charges stem from a December incident in which Ponsetto was seen tackling Keyon Harrold Jr., the 14-year-old son of musician Keyon Harrold, at the Arlo SoHo boutique hotel in New York City.

Ponsetto was arrested in California days after the New York Police Department released surveillance footage of the incident in late December in an effort to locate the woman.

In a statement obtained by the news agency, Paul D’Emilia, Ponsetto’s attorney, pushed back on the recent charges, which he described as “a brazen and clear overreach of the intent of the statute.”

“In sum, they are absurd, and a perversion of our legal system,” he claimed.

Ponsetto also faces a lawsuit brought by the teen’s family in March alleging she racially profiled the teen when she assaulted him, accusing him of taking her phone. Ponsetto has denied claims that she targeted the teen due to his race.

“I wasn’t racial profiling whatsoever. I’m Puerto Rican. I’m, like, a woman of color,” she said in an interview with CBS News’s Gayle King earlier this year.

The case has added fuel to discussions around racial profiling, particularly targeting Black Americans, in the nation.

“If I had done that, what Miya Ponsetto had done to my son, I’d be in jail now,” Keyon Harrold said in a previous interview with King discussing the assault on his son.

“We wouldn’t even be able to have this conversation. As a Black man, every day I walk outside, I have to play the perfect game, almost like throwing a no-hitter, just to be believed,” he continued.

Ponsetto is reportedly set to appear in court again in the fall.

Updated at 10:32 a.m.

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