Woman faces hate crime charge for Manhattan hotel confrontation

A California woman who wrongly accused a Black teen of taking her phone at a New York City hotel late last year and grabbed at him as he tried to leave now faces hate crime charges.

Miya Ponsetto was arraigned in court in Manhattan via videoconference Wednesday on charges including unlawful imprisonment as a hate crime, aggravated harassment and endangering the welfare of a child.

Ponsetto was at the Arlo Hotel in December when she got into a confrontation with a teen, 14-year-old Keyon Harrold Jr., saying he had stolen her phone. Video shows her grabbing at him as he tried to get away. Her phone was found soon afterward in an Uber.

Ponsetto, of Piru, California, was initially arrested in January on other charges. At her arraignment Wednesday, she pleaded not guilty to the hate crime, harassment and endangering charges she was indicted on by a grand jury. Her next court date is scheduled for Oct. 20.

Her attorney, Paul D'Emilia, said in a statement, "The charges alleged are a brazen and clear overreach of the intent of the statute. In sum, they are absurd, and a perversion of our legal system."

The family of the teen has filed a lawsuit against Ponsetto and the hotel alleging racial profiling.

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