Miya Ponsetto, the 22-year-old woman who was arrested and charged for falsely accusing a 14-year-old Black teenager of stealing her iPhone, is being sued by the family of the victim.
At a press conference Wednesday in New York, the family of 14-year-old Keyon Harrold Jr. announced they are filing a civil lawsuit against Ponsetto and the hotel where the attack occurred.
Per legal documents obtained by TMZ, Harrold Jr.’s family says the teenager was attacked and wrongfully accused due to racial profiling.
Due to medical expenses and the trauma Harrold Jr. endured, the family is alleging assault and battery, false imprisonment, infliction of emotional distress, and other losses.
The family also alleges that the Arlo Hotel — the location where the incident occurred — failed to provide a safe environment for guests, and did a poor job de-escalating the situation.
As seen on hotel surveillance video, Ponsetto — dubbed “SoHo Karen” by social media users — was seen tackling Harrold Jr. after accusing him of stealing her phone.
In an Instagram video posted and shot by Harrold Jr.’s father Keyon Harrold, Ponsetto tells Harrold and his son, “Show me the [phone]… Take the case off, that’s mine.”
Though it was not seen in his video, Harrold says a manager on duty was “insisting and attempting to use his managerial authority to force my son to show his phone to this random lady.” The clip does show the manager say he is trying to “settle this situation.”
Police say Ponsetto’s cellphone had been left in an Uber and was returned later that day.
Following the incident, Ponsetto was arrested and charged with four felonies: attempted robbery, endangering the welfare of a child, attempted grand larceny, and attempted assault.
In January, TMZ reported that Ponsetto was released after her arraignment.
In response to Ponsetto’s new civil case, her lawyer, Paul D'Emilia, told TMZ on Wednesday morning that Miya hasn't been made aware of any civil action against her. The attorney says he is working on resolving her criminal case.
Prior to her January arrest, Ponsetto gave a testy interview to Gayle King in which she denied that her actions were racially motivated, claiming she approached several people exiting the hotel.
“I admit, yes, I could have approached the situation differently or maybe not yelled at him like that or made him feel some sort of inferior way, making him feel as if I was, like, hurting his feelings, because that’s not my intention,” Ponsetto said. “I consider myself to be super sweet. I really never, never meant for it to hurt him, or his father either.”
In a different interview that month with NBC News, Ponsetto’s then-lawyer Sharon Ghatan appeared to justify her client’s actions by saying she “suffers from a lot of anxiety attacks.”
“She was alone… 22 years old in a city she doesn’t know, absolutely nobody there, and her phone had everything about it,” Ghatan said.
Adding that Ponsetto was “emotionally and mentally unwell,” Ghatan continued, “She lost her mind for a hot minute. She is sorry… Sadly, these poor Harrolds had to deal with the aftermath.”