The woman who falsely accused a Black teen of stealing her iPhone in New York last December has officially been charged with a hate crime.
Maya Ponsetto gained infamy across social media as “SoHo Karen” after footage of the incident went viral. She pled not guilty to charges of unlawful imprisonment as a hate crime, aggravated harassment, and endangering the welfare of a child.
In December, Ponsetto attacked 14-year-old Keyon Harrold Jr. in the lobby of a SoHo hotel after she couldn’t find her iPhone. A combination of security footage and video taken by the boy’s father, jazz musician Keyon Harrold, showed her attempting to take the teen’s iPhone from him and refusing to let him leave, even tackling him at one point.
Ponsetto’s iPhone was later returned to her by an Uber driver.
Prior to Wednesday’s arraignment, “SoHo Karen” had been charged with attempted assault, attempted robbery, grand larceny, and endangering the welfare of a child. She is also facing a lawsuit brought against her by Keyon Jr.’s parents, who have been clear that they believe racial bias absolutely played a role in what happened.
“My son was targeted as a Black young man, and that needs to stop right now,” Harrold said during a press conference earlier this year. “I want my son to have a better chance to have an opportunity to be himself. I want us to normalize being free in America.”
However, Ponsetto has denied accusations of racism, pointing to her own identity as a Puerto Rican woman during a catastrophic interview with Gayle King after her initial arrest.
Her lawyer, Paul D’Emilia, is intent on fighting the additional hate crime charges and has claimed that they are merely an “opportunistic” move by Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance in a high-profile case.
Calling his client’s assault on the teenager an “unfortunate incident,” D’Emilia slammed Vance for failing to “foster a civil and enlightened resolution” and instead choosing “a craven and opportunistic path in indicting, with felony hate crime charges, Ms. Miya Ponsetto.”
“The charges alleged are a brazen and clear overreach of the intent of the statute,” he said. “in sum, they are absurd, and a perversion of our legal system.”
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