A white California woman will not be receiving jail time for attacking a Black teen at a New York City hotel.
According to news reports, Miya Ponsetto, also dubbed Soho Karen pleaded guilty to second-degree unlawful imprisonment as a hate crime, a felony, and second-degree aggravated harassment, a misdemeanor, on Apr. 11. However, she was granted the opportunity to replead to the aggravated harassment charge. She would only be able to do so if she were to abide by the terms of agreement, which would require her to “live a law-abiding life.”
Under the agreement, Soho Karen must follow the rules of her probation for her separate drunk driving and resisting arrest case in her home state for two years.
In May 2020, she was arrested for driving “erratically” while under the influence, as she admitted to previously drinking wine and popping Xanax pills.
Ponsetto must also continue receiving counseling and avoid being arrested, or else she would face a penalty of up to four years in prison, said prosecutors.
“We are pleased that today’s proceeding brought this unfortunate misunderstanding closer to a final resolution…We are appreciative of the District Attorney’s thoughtful and empathetic approach to finding an acceptable conclusion,” her lawyer, Paul D’Emilia, reportedly said.
In December 2020, the 23-year-old wrongly accused 14-year-old Keyon Harrold Jr. of taking her phone at the Arlo Hotel. Viral footage of the incident, recorded by his dad, jazz musician Keyon Harrold, showed Ponsetto grabbing Harrold Jr. and shouting at him as he tried to leave Arlo, where he and his father were staying.
NYPD surveillance video revealed that the angry woman grabbed the teen by his waist from behind, before they both fell to the ground.
Her phone was found in an Uber shortly after the incident.
“It is Ms. Ponsetto’s wish that Keyon Harrold accepts her regrets and apology for her behavior that evening and that all involved can move forward with added insight and compassion,” said D’Emilia.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg called the Piru, Calif. woman’s behavior “outrageous” in a recent statement. He added that he dealt with plenty of racist encounters as a Black man.
“As a Black man, I have personally experienced racial profiling countless times in my life. I sympathize with the young man victimized in this incident,” he said.
He added that Ponsetto’s plea deal “ensures appropriate accountability.”
Meanwhile, Harrold Jr.’s family filed a lawsuit against Soho Karen and Arlo alleging racial profiling. While the case has been pending, the young man’s father took to Instagram to express his frustration on Apr. 13.
“My son and our family deserve more than an apology after being wrongfully and aggressively attacked in the lobby of the Arlo hotel. 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,” he wrote. “A clear message that this sort of abhorrent behavior will not be tolerated needs to be made, period.”
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His family’s attorney, civil rights lawyer Ben Crump, also wrote a post about Ponsetto’s plea agreement.
“It’s highly disappointing that Miya Ponsetto was permitted to plea down, only receiving probation. We won’t change the culture until we hold people accountable for their outrageously bad behavior.”
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