Miya Ponsetto, 22, made headlines back in late December when she tackled a 14-year-old Black boy in the lobby of a Soho hotel in New York City after wrongly accusing him of stealing her cell phone which was later found in an Uber. The video of Miya attacking Keyon Harrold Jr., son of Grammy-winning jazz artist Keyon Harrold, went viral and she became known around the country as “Soho Karen.” Only making matters worse, Miya then attempted to use her Puerto Rican heritage to claim it wasn’t a racially motivated attack. Now, Miya who is from Simi Valley, California, has pleaded not guilty to hate crime charges filed against her.
After attempting to evade police for two weeks, Miya, who has an arrest record, was forcibly arrested in front of her home in Piru, California. She was subsequently charged with two counts of unlawful imprisonment as a hate crime, aggravated harassment and endangering the welfare of a child. In a virtual court appearance on Wednesday, June 30, she pleaded not guilty to all charges in connection with the December 26, 2020, attack on minor Keyon Jr.
“The charges alleged are a brazen and clear overreach of the intent of the statute,” Miya’s attorney, Paul D’Emilia told PEOPLE. “In sum, they are absurd, and a perversion of our legal system,” he said.
Just hours before she was arrested back in January 2021, Miya appeared on CBS This Morning in an interview with Gayle King during which she insisted that she did not target Keyon Jr. but that she had been asking everyone who exited the hotel if they had stolen her phone.
The 22-year-old woman caught on camera allegedly physically attacking a 14-year-old Black teen and falsely accusing him of stealing her phone was arrested in California.
— CBS This Morning (@CBSThisMorning) January 8, 2021
“I admit, yes. I could have approached the situation differently, or maybe not yelled at him like that and made him feel you know, and made him feel maybe some sort of inferior way, making him feel as if I was like hurting feelings, because that was not my intention. I consider myself to be super sweet,” she told Gayle. “I don’t feel that this one mistake does define me,” she said. “But, I do sincerely from the bottom of my heart apologize that if I made the son feel as if I assaulted him or if I hurt his feelings or the father’s feelings.”
“OK, so basically I’m a 22-year-old girl. Racism, uh, is … how is one girl accusing a guy about a phone a crime?” eventually snapping, “alright Gayle, enough!” Miya said, clearly agitated, but Gayle was quick to point out that she is an adult who got physical with a child without any legitimate reason to do so. “I just don’t think I would randomly attack people in the way in which you did,” said Gayle. “It just looks like you were going nuts, for lack of a better word.”