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‘SoHo Karen’ Pleads Guilty to Felony Hate Crime After Falsely Accusing Black Teen of Stealing Her Cellphone

Left: Miya Ponsetto is seen in a screengrab from Keyon Harrold's Instagram video on December 26, 2020. Right: Booking Photo via the Ventura County Sheriff's Department

Left: Miya Ponsetto is seen in a screengrab from Keyon Harrold’s Instagram video on December 26, 2020. Right: Booking Photo via the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department

The California woman who was seen on cellphone video falsely accusing a Black teenager of stealing her cellphone before appearing to physically attack him has pleaded guilty to a felony in New York in a deal that allows her to avoid jail time.

Miya Ponsetto, 23, pleaded guilty to unlawful imprisonment as a hate crime, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg (D) announced Monday.

Keyon Harrold, Jr., who was 14 at the time, recorded Ponsetto, who is white, as she falsely accused him of stealing her cell phone in the lobby of the Arlo SoHo Hotel in December of 2020.

“After making false accusations that the 14-year-old victim had stolen her cell phone, Ponsetto then repeatedly attacked and dragged him to the floor, despite attempts of numerous witnesses to intervene,” the press release from Bragg’s office said.

Harrold, son of jazz musician Keyon Harrold Sr., recorded Ponsetto speaking with a manager and pointing to Harrold saying “That’s mine,” and instructing the manager to “get it back.”

Ponsetto’s phone was ultimately found and returned by an Uber driver.

Ponsetto, who became known as the “SoHo Karen” for adding to the list of white woman falsely accusing a Black person (or people) of a crime, fled the scene before police arrived. She was nabbed by California police in January of 2021 during a traffic stop in which she had to be “forcibly removed” from her car after refusing to stop for police until she reached her home.

Ponsetto remained defiant days later during an appearance on CBS This Morning in which she used a hand gesture to “shush” anchor Gayle King—a move that Harrold’s parents said reflected Ponsetto’s sense of “entitlement.”

She initially pleaded not guilty in June. At the time, Ponsetto’s attorney Paul D’Emilia said in a statement to Law&Crime that Ponsetto’s arrest was “shameful” and accused then-District Attorney Cy Vance (D) of ignoring “truly violent criminals” in favor of turning “prosecutorial fury on a distraught and panicked young woman stranded without her lifeline, her phone, thousands of miles from home.”

No longer “stranded,” Ponsetto will remain on probation.

“Under the terms of the plea, Ponsetto will be required for two years to abide by the terms of her California probation stemming from a separate case, continue counseling, and avoid further interaction with the criminal justice system,” the press release from Bragg’s office said.

In addition to keeping her out of jail, the plea deal allows Ponsetto to “replead” to aggravated harassment, but only if she “successfully follows” the terms of her California probation sentence.

“If she does not comply, she faces up to 1 1/3 to 4 years in state prison,” the statement from Bragg’s office said.

Bragg’s office said that the agreement holds Ponsetto accountable.

“Ms. Ponsetto displayed outrageous behavior,” Bragg said in the press release. “As a Black man, I have personally experienced racial profiling countless times in my life and I sympathize with the young man victimized in this incident. This plea ensures appropriate accountability for Ms. Ponsetto by addressing underlying causes for her behavior and ensuring this conduct does not reoccur.”

News of Ponsetto’s plea comes on the same day as Bragg announced a plan to expand New York’s Hate Crimes Unit.

[Images via Instagram screengrab, Ventura County Sheriff’s Department.]

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