The California woman dubbed the “SoHo Karen” by social media is now pleading guilty to a hate crime charge. In 2020, “SoHo Karen” Miya Ponsetto wrongly accused Keyon Harrold Jr, a Black teenager she encountered in a New York City hotel lobby, of stealing her cellphone.
Hate Crime Guilty Plea
The California woman, dubbed “SoHo Karen” after she wrongly accused Keyon Harrold Jr. of stealing her cellphone, has pleaded guilty to a hate crime charge.
Miya Ponsetto, 23, admitted to unlawful imprisonment “as a hate crime” on Monday. But “she has the ability to plead again and have the charge reduced from a hate crime charge to one of misdemeanor aggravated harassment if she stays out of trouble for two years”, Manhattan prosecutors said.
A viral video of the incident showed Ponsetto lunging, tackling and shouting at Keyon Harrold Jr., who was 14 at the time. She accused him of taking her iPhone with no evidence.
The attack took place on December 26, 2020, in the lobby of Arlo Soho, an upscale boutique hotel where the teenager and his father, jazz musician Keyon Harrold were guests at the time. Later on, it was discovered that Ponsetto, who is white, had left her phone in an Uber vehicle and the phone was later returned to her.
Ponsetto Receives Probation If She “Stays Out Of Trouble”
For her assault on the minor, Ms. Ponsetto has received probation and the promise of a downgraded plea if she avoids future legal run-ins. Harrold’s attorney believes the sentence is not sufficient.
“Ms. Ponsetto displayed outrageous behavior. 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,” Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said in a statement Monday. “This plea ensures appropriate accountability for Ms. Ponsetto by addressing underlying causes for her behavior and ensuring this conduct does not reoccur.”
Ben Crump, who is serving as a lawyer for the teen, said in a statement that it was “highly disappointing” that Ponsetto will receive only probation. He then added on, “We won’t change the culture until we hold people accountable for their outrageously bad behavior.”
The New York case is piggybacking on a previous DUI case in California where Ponsetto is currently serving probation and undergoing counseling. Ponsetto, a receptionist in Southern California, is grateful for the deal, her attorney, Paul D’Emilia, said.
“We are pleased that today’s proceeding brought this unfortunate misunderstanding closer to a final resolution,” D’Emilia said in a statement. “Miya Ponsetto has been leading an exemplary life since this incident with the young man close to a year and a half ago.”
Meanwhile, Ponsetto has hopes that Keyon Harrold Jr. “accepts her regrets and apology for her behavior that evening, and that all involved can move forward,” D’Emilia said. However, if Ponsetto does not comply with the terms of probation, she could face anywhere from 1⅓ to 4 years in state prison, prosecutors said.