The 22-year old woman who accused the teenager was later reunited with her phone–after an Uber driver discovered she’d left it in the car.
The family of a Black teenager who was falsely accused of stealing a cell phone from a hotel guest has filed a lawsuit seeking recompense for the miscarriage of justice.
According to CBS News, Miya Ponsetto, 22, falsely accused 14-year old Keyon Harrold, Jr, of stealing her mobile device in the lobby of the Arlo Hotel in Manhattan.
Harrold’s father, notes CBS, recorded the confrontation on his own cell phone. In the elder Harrold’s recording, Ponsetto can be seen verbally berating and then physically attacking the teenager.
Soon afterward, Ponsetto did manage to retrieve her phone—from an Uber driver, who’d found it in the back of their vehicle.
The lawsuit lists as defendants:
- Accuser Miya Ponsetto
- The Arlo Hotel
- Arlo manager Chad Nathan
The complaint accuses both Ponsetto and Nathan of engaging in racial profiling, while the hotel stands accused of general negligence.
Nathan, states the complaint, appeared to side unconditionally with Ponsetto, refusing to listen to Harrold’s account of events. In fact, Nathan reportedly went so far as to “detain the plaintiffs and [demand] that Keyon Harrold Jr. surrender his cellphone.”
“Defendants treated plaintiffs differently from other guests and invitees in a place of public accommodation because of their race,” the suit says. “The only difference between plaintiffs Keyon Harrold and Keyon Harrold Jr. and the other guests who were not targeted by defendants Chad Nathan and Miya Ponsetto was the color of their skin.”
The lawsuit suggests that the hotel and its management violated New York City’s Human Rights Law, which prohibits discrimination in housing, employment, and places of public accommodation.
Attorney Paul Napoli, who is representing the family alongside prominent civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, explained his clients’ position against the hotel.
“”What the Arlo hotel did here is simple: They violated the human rights law of New York City […] that requires hotels and other places of accommodation to treat all of their guests, whether white or Black, the same. And the Arlo failed to do that,” Napoli said.
Ponsetto, says CBS, was arrested at her home in California earlier this year. She was then extradited to New York City, where she faced charges of attempted assault, attempted robbery, grand larceny, and “acting in a manner injurious to a child.”
In her defense, Ponsetto says she had simply decided that anyone leaving the Arlo Hotel could have been the one who took her phone.
“I was approaching the people that had been exiting the hotel, because in my mind, anybody exiting is probably the one, might be the one, that is trying to steal my phone,” she said. “I admit, yes, I could have approached the situation differently, or maybe not yelled at him like that and 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 also suggests that she did not “attack” Harrold, Jr., with the footage simply showing her verbally berating the teenager and grabbing his hand.
“Yelling at him? Okay, I apologize,” Ponsetto said. “Can we move on?”
The Arlo Hotel had earlier issued an apology for forcing the Harrold family to endure a “baseless accusation, prejudice and assault against an innocent guest,” reiterating its “[commitment] to making sure this never happens again at any of our hotels.”