A California woman dubbed ‘SoHo Karen’ has pleaded guilty to a hate crime after attacking a black teenager in a Manhattan hotel and accusing him of stealing her phone, and has been sentenced to two years probation.
Miya Ponsetto, 23, pleaded guilty to the December 2020 attack, the Manhattan district attorney said on Monday, but will not face additional punishment. Instead, she must simply comply with an existing probation order.
She accused 15-year-old Keyon Harrold Jr, the son of famed jazz trumpeter Keyon Harrold, of stealing her phone. She had in fact left it in her Uber.
Ponsetto pleaded guilty to Unlawful Imprisonment in the Second Degree as a Hate Crime, said Alvin Bragg, the DA.
She avoided jail but was sentenced to probation, and will be required for two years to abide by the terms of her California probation stemming from a separate case.
She must also continue counseling, and avoid committing further crimes.
If she complies, she will after two years have her charges reduced to Aggravated Harassment in the Second Degree, a class A misdemeanor.
If not, she could be sentenced to four years in state prison.
‘Ms Ponsetto displayed outrageous behavior,’ said Bragg.
‘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.’
Miya Ponsetto is pictured on Monday in court in Manhattan. She was sentenced to two years probation but avoided jail time for the hate crime
Ponsetto, 23, is pictured in court on Monday for her sentencing
The 23-year-old from California was ordered to keep attending counseling and avoid further encounters with law enforcement for two years, after which she can have her charges reduced to a misdemeanor
Ponsetto was initially charged with assault following the hotel scuffle, but was in June arraigned on three new counts: unlawful imprisonment as a hate crime, aggravated harassment and endangering the welfare of a child
Ponsetto’s actions inside the boutique hotel were filmed by Grammy-winning African American jazz artist Keyon Harrold (right) as she approached his son, Keyon Jr. (left)
In November, Ponsetto said: ‘I just wish I had apologized differently.’
Ponsetto’s attorney, Paul D’Emilia, informed the court during the November status hearing that she has been seeing a therapist and trying to schedule anger management classes.
Ponsetto is pictured in her booking photo from January 8, 2021
She remained defiant after the attack, telling Gayle King in early 2021 that she only regretted making the boy ‘feel inferior.’
She also denied that race played a role in the incident because she is a ‘woman of color.’
Ponsetto did offer a roundabout apology to the boy, saying: ‘I’m sorry. I’m sorry from the bottom of my heart.’
She added: ‘He is honestly – he’s 14? That’s what they’re claiming? Yeah.
‘I’m 22. I’ve lived probably just the same amount of life as him. Like, honestly. I’m just as a kid at heart as he is.
‘I feel sorry that I made the family go through, like, all of that stress. But at the same time, it wasn’t just them going through that.
‘I don’t feel like this one mistake does define me.
‘I consider myself to be super sweet. I’m a 22-year-old girl… how is one girl accusing a guy about a phone a crime?’
The CBS sit-down was marked by Ponsetto, wearing a black cap emblazoned with the word ‘Daddy,’ snapping at King and telling her: ‘Alright Gayle, enough’ as she was pressed on the incident, and told she was ‘old enough to know better.’
Miya Ponsetto, 23, also known as ‘SoHo Karen,’ is pictured during a court hearing in November
Ponsetto, who was charged after falsely accusing a black teen of stealing her cell phone inside a boutique hotel last December, appeared at Manhattan Supreme Court in November
She was joined by lawyer Paul D’Emilia, who later said his client was ‘grossly overcharged’
Ponsetto’s actions inside the boutique hotel were filmed by Grammy-winning African American jazz artist Keyon Harrold as he approached his son, Keyon Jr.
In the recording, Ponsetto is seen pushing and grabbing at the father and son, allegedly even scratching Keyon Sr.’s hands as she attempted to snatch his cell phone, wrongly believing it to be hers.
Ponsetto, who lives in Los Angeles, was initially charged with assault and was permitted to fly back to California on bail, where she remains.
She was arraigned via video conference in June with three new counts: unlawful imprisonment as a hate crime, aggravated harassment and endangering the welfare of a child.
Ponsetto remained unapologetic during ensuing media interviews, telling Gayle King that she only regretted making the boy ‘feel inferior’
Ponsetto was flown from her California home in January and charged for the alleged attack
Ponsetto claimed in interviews she’d been stopping everyone in the hotel lobby during the search for her missing phone.
‘I was approaching the people that had been exiting the hotel – because in my mind, anybody exiting might be the one trying to steal my phone,’ she said.
Moments after the hotel scuffle, an Uber driver returned the missing phone to Ponsetto.
Harrold and Keyon Jr.’s mother, Kat Rodriguez, staged a rally in Manhattan shortly after the incident alongside their attorney Ben Crump and the Reverend Al Sharpton.
‘When I saw this story, I thought about how I was one of those kids whose father never took him anywhere for Christmas, never had brunch with my father,’ Sharpton said.
‘And for this black man to take his black son, put him in a hotel during a pandemic, and spend Christmas with him, raising him, and to be assaulted because of the color of their skin, I wanted to stand with this man and this woman who provided for their son, and they’re being criminalized for it.
‘The arrogance and audacity of this woman.’