A California woman who falsely accused a teenager of stealing her cellphone in December was indicted by a New York County grand jury his Wednesday on two counts of unlawful imprisonment as a hate crime, aggravated harassment, and endangering the welfare of a child, NBC News reports.
Miya Ponsetto was seen in a viral video charging and tackling the 14-year-old son of jazz musician Keyon Harrold, accusing him of stolen her iPhone. The incident took place in the lobby of an upscale New York City hotel where Harrold and his son, Keyon Harrold Jr., were staying. It was later discovered that Ponsetto had actually left her phone in an Uber vehicle.
Earlier this year, she was charged with attempted robbery, grand larceny, acting in a manner injurious to a child and two counts of attempted assault, but this Wednesday she was indicted on the hate crime charge, to which she pleaded not guilty.
“The charges alleged are a brazen and clear overreach of the intent of the statute. In sum, they are absurd, and a perversion of our legal system,” Ponsetto’s attorney Paul D’Emilia said. “As truly violent criminals maraud and run rampant through New York City, this DA exhibits zero interest in law-enforcement and prosecution. Instead, he turns his prosecutorial fury on a distraught and panicked young woman stranded without her lifeline, her phone, thousands of miles from home. Shameful.”
Speaking to CBS This Morning host Gayle King in January, Ponsetto denied that the incident was racially motivated.
“Maybe not yelled at him like that, and made him feel, you know, some sort of, uh, inferior way, making him feel as if I was like, hurting his feelings — that’s not my intention,” Ponsetto said at the time. “I consider myself to be super sweet.”
After being pressed further by King, she became defensive and alleged that the teen’s father had assaulted her.
“The footage shows me attacking his son, attacking him how? Yelling at him, OK, I apologize. Can we move on?” she said. “Basically I’m a 22-year-old girl. I am, I don’t — racism — how is one girl accusing a guy about a phone a crime?”