Miya Ponsetto is a 22-year-old woman from Simi Valley, California, who has been identified as the so-called “SoHo Karen” who was caught on video falsely accusing Black musician Keyon Harrold’s 14-year-old son, Keyon Harrold Jr., of stealing her iPhone and then assaulting him and his father when they tried to leave the lobby of the Arlo SoHo Hotel on December 26.
Ponsetto was “forcibly arrested” near her home in Piru, California, on Thursday, January 7, NBC News reported. She was booked into Todd Road Jail in Santa Paula around 7:30 p.m. and expected to appear in Ventura County Superior Court at 1:30 p.m. January 8 on a felony charge of Fugitive From Justice, according to Ventura County Sheriff’s Office records. NBC News reported she will be extradited to New York.
Ponsetto was initially not charged in the incident but the NYPD requested “the public’s assistance locating the suspect” in the video. Harrold posted the video on Instagram hours after the incident occurred, and it quickly went viral.
The woman’s identity was not released during the five days after the New York City incident. The NYPD said officers responded to the scene but did not arrest anyone or issue any citations and declined to release her name, saying the investigation is ongoing. Internet sleuths attempted to identify her, and at least two other women were wrongly accused of being the “SoHo Karen.” The missing phone was later returned to Ponsetto by her Uber driver, according to Harrold.
Here’s what you need to know about “SoHo Karen” Miya Taylor Ponsetto, of Simi Valley:
1. Ponsetto Put up a Fight When She Was Arrested & Her Lawyer Says She Has Anxiety
Police said they attempted to pull Ponsetto over as she was driving but she didn’t stop her vehicle until she arrived home, according to the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office. They said Ponsetto then “refused to get out of the car,” and NBC News reported she “tried to slam a car door on one of the deputies.” After she was “forcibly removed” from the vehicle, according to the media release, she was arrested on the outstanding warrant and booked at the county’s pre-trial detention facility. NYPD detectives were in Ventura County at the time “to help coordinate the arrest,” according to the media release.
Ponsetto’s lawyer, Sharon Ghatan, said Ponsetto “briefly left her items unattended in the lobby when she went to retrieve an item from Starbucks in the restroom” at the hotel, NBC News reported. Ghatan said Ponsetto is “emotionally and mentally unwell” and “suffers from a lot of anxiety attacks,” according to the outlet. “She lost her mind for a hot minute. She is sorry,” Ghatan told NBC News.
Ponsetto was originally named by an acquaintance in a comment left on Harrold’s Instagram video, and she was confirmed to be the suspect by the New York Post on December 31, citing NYPD sources.
Ponsetto did not respond at the time to requests for comment from Heavy made to a phone number and email connected to her through online records. Her parents also did not respond to requests for comment, and it was not immediately clear if she has hired an attorney who could speak on her behalf. Ponsetto did give a phone interview to CNN on December 30. She was only identified as a 22-year-old woman during that interview. Ponsetto said in the interview that she was the victim and was assaulted. She said she is not racist and was concerned about facing charges and the public outrage.
“Of course I worry. That’s not who I am. I actually … try very hard to make sure that I am always doing the right thing,” Ponsetto told CNN.
The NYPD said Ponsetto could face charges including harassment, assault, grand larceny or attempted larceny, Chief of Detectives Rodney Harrison said at a press briefing, according to the New York Post. On January 7 NBC News reported that it was unclear what charges Ponsetto would face.
2. The Video Shows the Woman Identified as Ponsetto Yelling ‘I’m Not Letting Him Walk Away With My Phone’ Before Attacking Harrold & His Son
Harrold posted the 1-minute video, which can be watched above, on December 26, hours after the incident. Harrold and his son were staying at the Arlo SoHo Hotel and had come down to the lobby to eat brunch at the hotel’s restaurant.
“This person quote on quote ‘lost’ her iPhone, and apparently, my son magically acquired it, which merely ridiculous,” Harrold wrote on Instagram. “This incident went on for five more minutes, me protecting my son from this lunatic. She scratched me; she Tackled and grabbed him. He is a child!!! Now watch it again.”
In the video, the woman now identified as Miya Ponsetto can be seen talking to a manager, who is carrying a laptop. Harrold Jr. can be heard telling the hotel manager, “This is my phone,” and his father then tells him, “You don’t have to explain nothing to her.” Ponsetto asks Harrold Jr. to show her the phone and says he took her case off his iPhone to disguise it. She can be heard saying, “He took the case off, that’s mine, literally get it back please.” Harrold replies, “Are you kidding me? You feel like there’s only one iPhone made in the world?”
Ponsetto tells them the “Find My iPhone” feature on her phone is off, and tells the manager it is her phone Harrold Jr. was holding. After Harrold stops the manager from questioning his son, they start to walk away. Ponsetto says, “Then show me the proof. He’s not leaving. Show me the proof.” She then chases Harrold and his son, yelling, “I’m not letting him walk away with my phone.” The video ends with her attacking Harrold and Harrold Jr., and then falling to the ground.
Surveillance video released by the NYPD shows more of the incident. The woman identified as Ponsetto can be seen chasing after Harrold Jr. and grabbing him around the waist, pulling him toward the door of the hotel and tackling him to the ground in the doorway.
Harrold wrote on Instagram, “Her phone was magically returned by an Uber driver a few minutes after this incident. No apology from her after this traumatic situation to my son, not me. No apologies from the establishment.”
Arlo Hotels said in a statement to Heavy, “We’re deeply disheartened about the recent incident of baseless accusation, prejudice and assault against an innocent guest of Arlo hotel. In investigating the incident further, we’ve learned that the manager on duty promptly called the police regarding the woman’s conduct and that hotel security intervened to prevent further violence; still, more could have been done to de-escalate the dispute. No Arlo guest – or any person – should be subject to this kind of behavior.”
The hotel chain added, “We want to apologize to Mr. Harrold and his son for this inexcusable experience, and have reached out to them directly to express our sincere regret and to offer help in dealing with this traumatic event. We are committed to making sure this never happens again at any of our hotels.”
3. Ponsetto, a Simi Valley High School Graduate, Has Been Arrested Twice in 2020 & Was Sued in 2019 for Being Behind on Her Rent
Ponsetto graduated from Simi Valley High School in Ventura County, California, about 40 miles outside of Los Angeles, in 2016. She was a cheerleader when she was at the school, according to photos on a photographer’s website that have now been made private. It is not clear why she was in New York City. Harrold said in his Instagram post that he was told by hotel staff that Ponsetto had been staying at the Arlo SoHo Hotel but had checked out on December 23.
Online records show Ponsetto was arrested twice in 2020. She was charged on September 1 in West Los Angeles by the California Highway Patrol with DUI, driving while her license was suspended and failure to obey traffic lanes. She was previously charged on February 28 with public intoxication after an incident at a Beverly Hills hotel. Her mother, Nicole Ponsetto, was also arrested during that incident.
She has an Etsy page where she has favorited items including jewelry, masks and iPhone cases. Ponsetto also has an ExploreTalent acting and modeling profile that appears to be from when she was younger.
Court records show Ponsetto and a man she was living with were sued by a property company in 2019 in Los Angeles Superior Court because they owed $1,250 in rent at their Sun Valley, California, apartment.
4. Harrold Says His Son Now Has ‘Trauma’ He ‘Has to Carry’ After the Incident With Ponsetto
While Harrold and his son were not injured physically, the musician says his son suffered emotional damage. “Think about the trauma that my son now has to carry, only coming downstairs to have box day brunch with his dad,” Harrold wrote. “This s*** happens so often. It needs to stop!”
Harrold Jr.’s mother, Katty Rodriguez, also posted a message on Instagram about the incident. She wrote:
Before posting this video yesterday, we prayed about how this would impact us as a family and above all how it would impact our son. We asked for advice from professionals and weighed the decision for several hours. The only reason we decided to go public and post on social media was because the hotel which had a security guard on duty let this young lady leave while waiting for the police to respond after she assaulted my son several times which is not seen on this video because my sons father dropped the phone to protect our son! The police came and filed a report and said we would have to wait 3 days. The hotel just went about their business after basically sweeping it under the rug with an ‘sorry this happened to you.’ Not until they were faced with scrutiny through social media did they answer a post on Instagram. They answered a post on Instagram instead of going to my son and his fathers room which they were still checked in.
Harrold, a 40-year-old native of Ferguson, Missouri, is a jazz trumpeter, vocalist, songwriter and producer, who has worked alongside Common, Rihanna, Beyoncé, Jay-Z, D’Angelo and many other major stars in the music business. Harrold’s first solo album, Introducing Keyon Harrold, was released in 2009, and he played the trumpet for the soundtrack to the 2015 Miles Davis biopic Miles Ahead starring Don Cheadle. His second album, The Mugician, was released in 2017.
5. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio Said Ponsetto’s Actions Were the Result of ‘Racism Plain & Simple,’ but the NYPD Is Not Investigating It as a Bias Crime
The video led to widespread outrage on social media. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio commented on the incident on December 28 on Twitter, writing, “This is racism. Plain and simple.” De Blasio added, “It would be horrific at any age, but it’s especially offensive that it happened to a child. To Keyon Harrold Jr. and his family: I am so sorry this happened to you. Her behavior was an affront to our city’s values.”
Civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump is representing Harrold and his family. He held a press conference in Manhattan alongside Harrold, Harrold Jr., Rodriguez and Al Sharpton on December 30.
“As this year of racial awareness is drawing to a close, it’s deeply troubling that incidents like this one, in which a Black child is viewed as and treated like a criminal, continue to happen,” Crump said in a statement. “We strongly urge Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr. to bring assault and battery charges against this woman to send the message that hateful, racially motivated behavior is unacceptable. This is what it will take to drive change. We also call for a civil rights investigation into the Arlo Hotel for its implicit bias in its treatment of Keyon.”
Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance’s office has said they are “thoroughly investigating” the incident
Harrison said investigators are working to determine whether the suspect left New York City and are trying to find her. “The investigation is still preliminary, a lot of work still needs to be done,” he told CNN. “The complainants are cooperating and I’m confident that the investigators from the first precinct will make an arrest on this case sooner than later.”
Despite de Blasio’s statements and the requests from the family and Crump, Harrison told CNN the NYPD is not currently investigating the incident as a bias incident or hate crime.