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Miya Ponsetto defends herself in wild interview after falsely accusing Black teen

NBC News logo NBC News 1/8/2021 Wilson Wong
a woman looking at the camera © Provided by NBC News

The woman who was filmed attacking and falsely accusing the Black son of a prominent jazz musician of stealing her phone defended herself in a wild interview on Friday, insisting race had nothing to do with the altercation.

In an interview with CBS “This Morning” host Gayle King, Miya Ponsetto, clad in a baseball hat with the word "Daddy" sewn onto it, stumbled as she tried to explain herself while admitting that she could have approached the situation differently.

“Maybe not yelled at him like that, and made him feel you know, some sort of, uh, inferior way, making him feel as if I was like, hurting his feelings — that's not my intention,” Ponsetto said. “I consider myself to be super sweet.”

“I do, sincerely from the bottom of my heart, apologize that if I had made this son feel as I assaulted him or hurt his feelings," she said.

King responded, "I know you've seen the video, when you look at the video, the reaction seems very extreme. It doesn't seem like it's someone who's 'super sweet.'"

To that Ponsetto asked, "How would you feel, if you were alone in New York and, you know, you're going to spend time with your family during the holidays, and you lose the one thing that gets stolen from you that has all of the access to the only way that you're able to get back home."

Ponsetto admitted she did not stop everyone in the lobby, but said she wanted to do her “part” while hotel management checked the security footage.

Ponsetto added that the teen's father, Keyon Harrold, allegedly slammed her to the ground and pulled her hair while dragging her across the ground — NBC News was unable to corroborate her claims with investigators or the hotel where the incident took place.

Police in New York City said the father “sustained scratches to his hand.” No other injuries were reported.

When King asks her about the viral video and the security camera footage that appears to show Ponsetto attacking Harrold Jr., Ponsetto only acknowledges that she accosted the Harrold family.

"The footage shows me attacking his son, attacking him how? Yelling at him, O.K., I apologize. Can we move on?" she said. "Basically I'm a 22-year-old girl. I am, I don't — racism — how is one girl accusing a guy about a phone a crime?"

King pressed Ponsetto further, saying the video showed her attacking 14-year-old Keyon Harrold Jr., who did not have her phone. Tensions escalate, with Ponsetto abruptly cutting King off, saying: “Alright, Gayle, enough.”

Authorities in California forcibly arrested Ponsetto on Thursday afternoon on a fugitive warrant in Piru, according to the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office. A spokesperson for the sheriff’s office told NBC News on Thursday that Ponsetto refused to get out of the car and tried to slam a car door on one of the deputies. It was not immediately clear what charges Ponsetto faces, but she awaits extradition to New York.

Ponsetto was thrown into the national spotlight after Harrold posted a one-minute long video of the Dec. 26 incident at the Arlo Soho Hotel on social media. Security camera footage later revealed her lunging toward and tackling Harrold Jr.

In an interview on Thursday, Sharon Ghatan, Ponsetto’s lawyer, doubled down on Ponsetto’s mental health issues and said the incident was “not about race.”

On Tuesday, the attorney confirmed that her client left her phone in an Uber. Ghatan said that had the Uber driver returned her phone 15 minutes earlier, the altercation would not have happened.

Ponsetto was charged with public intoxication and battery for a Beverly Hills hotel incident on Feb. 28, according to court documents. She was also arrested on May 28 for driving under the influence in Van Nuys, California, court documents show.

A hearing for the charges related to the Beverly Hills incident was scheduled for this month, Ghatan said. In September, a judge at the Van Nuys Courthouse West sentenced Ponsetto to three years of summary probation after she pleaded no contest for driving under the influence.

Ghatan said she has been unable to reach civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who is representing the Harrold family.

On Twitter on Thursday, Crump accused Ponsetto of racially discriminating against Harrold and his son. He added that her actions were exacerbated by the staff of the Arlo Hotel, who “threw gasoline on the fire instead of stopping a racist attack on their own guests.”

In a statement on Thursday, Harrold and his wife, Kat Rodriguez, said the altercation was not just an isolated act of racism, but indicative of a larger system that enables institutions like Arlo Hotel to accept this type of behavior.

“This is not about an apology from someone who until a few days ago was claiming she did nothing wrong. Someone who targeted a 14-year-old Black child because of the color of his son,” they said. “It’s about a system that condones and emboldens racial profiling and considers Black people guilty until proven innocent.”

They added that this never should have happened.

“We pray it is not in vain and brings us one step closer to living in a world where a 14-year-old Black child can enjoy brunch with his father without the threat of being profiled, targeted, falsely accused, and physically attacked,” they said.

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