Miya Ponsetto a.k.a. "Soho Karen," who went viral in December after assaulting a black teen and accusing him of stealing her iPhone in the lobby of NYC's Arlo Hotel, has been charged with federal hate crimes in connection to the incident.
The teen's father, Grammy-winning jazz musician Keyon Harrold, shared footage of the altercation on social media, showing a masked Ponsetto demanding staff at the Arlo Hotel in Soho to get her iPhone back from the teen after accusing him of stealing it, as previously reported. Surveillance footage also captured Ponsetto tackling the boy to the ground, before her phone was returned by an Uber driver.
Ponsetto was arrested in California in January and charged with two counts of attempted assault, attempted robbery grand larceny, and endangering the welfare of a child. On Wednesday, a grand jury indicted her on two counts of unlawful imprisonment in the second degree as a hate crime, aggravated harassment in the second degree, and endangering the welfare of a child.
Ponsetto Pleads Not Guilty, Lawyer Claims She Was 'Distraught' and 'Stranded'
Ponsetto's lawyer Paul D'Emilia entered a plea of "not guilty" on her behalf during a video arraignment in Manhattan Supreme Court on Wednesday.
D'Emilia slammed the indictment as "opportunistic" for Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance. "Instead of helping to foster a civil and enlightened resolution to an unfortunate incident between two young people, DA Vance chose a craven and opportunistic path in indicting, with felony hate crime charges, Ms. Miya Ponsetto," D'Emilia said in the 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," he added. "As truly violent criminals maraud and run rampant through New York City, this DA exhibits zero interest in law enforcement and prosecution. Instead, he turns his prosecutorial fury on a distraught and panicked young woman stranded without her lifeline, her phone, thousands of miles from home."
The judge has set Ponsetto's next court date for Oct. 20 and has warned her that she would have to physically present for the hearing or she would end up facing bail jumping charges.
Ponsetto Called Herself a 'Woman of Color' to Avoid Racism Allegations
In the weeks following the incident, Ponsetto made several attempts to justify her actions and dismiss allegations of racism. During a viral interview with Gayle King, Ponsetto claimed she could not be racist because she was a "woman of color."
"I had noticed my phone had been missing. So I just approached the hotel manager, asked him if he could kindly just check the footage," Ponsetto told King. "In my opinion, I was, like, 'OK, any person walking down could possibly be the person that might've had my phone.' And I, I really didn't, I wasn't racial profiling whatsoever. I'm a woman. I'm Puerto Rican. I'm, like, a woman of color. I'm Italian, Greek, Puerto Rican."
However, Internet sleuths debunked her claims by tracking down Ponsetto's acting profile on Explore Talent - an online platform for aspiring actors to find performing opportunities and jobs – which listed Ponsetto's ethnicity as Caucasian alongside other stats.
The Harrold family also filed a civil lawsuit against Ponsetto in May. The case is still pending. Watch the viral video footage of the incident below: