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A woman who falsely accused a young Black teenager of stealing her phone, then assaulted him when he tried to escape, has been charged with a hate crime. Miya Ponsetto is charged with three hate crimes including unlawful imprisonment, aggravated harassment and endangering the welfare of a child.

On December 26, 2020, at the Arlo Hotel in New York City, Ponsetto confronted Kenyon Harrold Jr, a 14-year-old young Black teen, and accused him of stealing her cell phone. She then grabbed Mr. Harrold Jr as he tried to leave. 

The 14-year-old young teen, who was forced to turn over his phone to Arlo Hotel employees, is currently suing the hotel and its general manager for racial profiling. Ponsetto, aged 22, is also named in the civil litigation. 

Hate crime designation establishes precedent

 Ponsetto’s cell phone was found later in a ride share car. 

A video of the incident was taken by Mr. Harrold Jr’s father, Jazz musician Kenyon Harrold. Following the release of the video, supporters of Mr. Harrold Jr and the Harrold family demanded that Ponsetto face criminal charges for her actions. 

Meanwhile, after her initial arrest in January, Ponsetto apologized and expressed regret over accusing and assailing Mr. Harrold Jr., a minor. However, she later seemed to defend her brazen actions in a television interview, with her attorney referring to her emotional state as an excuse for her behavior. 

This week, Reverend Al Sharpton noted the significance of the charges against Ponsetto in a press conference. “The fact that we now have a D.A., and therefore setting a legal precedent, that we will go after… Black hate crime, and you don’t have to beat somebody up in order to establish hate. Hate is any action and this today established a legal precedent that we needed in the City of New York,” he said. 

Ponsetto, who has been dubbed SoHo Karen for her hateful actions, faces hate crime charges in court in September. 

Erika Stone is a graduate student in the Master of Social Work program at the University of Oklahoma, and a graduate assistant at Schusterman Library. A Chess Memorial Scholar, she has a B.A. in Psychology...