By ALEX STONE and AARON KATERSKY, ABC News
(NEW YORK) — Miya Ponsetto, the woman wanted for allegedly falsely accusing a teenager of stealing her smartphone and physically attacking him inside a New York City hotel, has been arrested in California after fleeing authorities there.
Ponsetto fled the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department after it tried to make a traffic stop on the warrant for her arrest out of New York, officials said.
The department said it had to follow her while she refused to stop, driving slowly through her neighborhood in Piru, California.
Once she stopped in front of a home, she put up a fight and resisted arrest, where she had to be physically restrained and arrested by deputies, authorities told ABC News.
Keyon Harrold, a Grammy-winning trumpet player, was with his 14-year-old son at the Arlo SoHo Hotel in New York City last month, where they were staying, when he said Ponsetto approached his son in the lobby to accuse him of stealing her phone. Harrold recorded video of part of the incident on his phone.
“We were basically targeted, and the lady from the video is screaming … erratically that my son somehow took her phone,” Harrold previously told ABC News.
In the video that Harrold recorded, the woman could be seen yelling at the teen and lunging at him during the Dec. 26 incident. Harrold’s son could also be heard denying that he stole the phone.
“I’ve been confused. I mean, don’t know what would’ve happened if my dad wasn’t there, honestly,” Keyon Harrold Jr. told ABC News’ Good Morning America last month. “These past few days, still kind of shell-shocked. But I’m hanging in there.”
Ponsetto is being held on no bail, as all out of state warrants are in Ventura County. She will have an extradition hearing. She is not yet in the jail roster, but she is being held on the fugitive warrant out of New York.
She was also arrested last year in Beverly Hills, California, for public intoxication.
“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,” National civil rights attorney Ben Crump said in a statement following the incident.
The woman’s cellphone was reportedly found later on Saturday by an Uber driver, according to Crump.
On Thursday night, Miya Ponsetto’s former attorney, Sharen Ghatan, said in a statement to ABC News: “I had an in-person meeting with Miya today and am extremely concerned about her mental state. It is clear that she is emotionally unwell.”
“She left a national news broadcast and has been incommunicado ever since. I was just informed by another media source that she may have been arrested at her home earlier this evening. It is challenging to work with a client who explicitly disregards legal counsel,” Ghatan added.
Crump also shared a statement on Twitter, on behalf of Harrold Jr.’s parents, accusing Ponsetto of committing an act of racism that was only enabled and fueled by the staff of the Arlo Hotel.
“This is not about an apology from someone who until a few days ago was claiming she did nothing wrong, and in fact alleged Keyon Harrold Sr. had assaulted her. Someone who targeted a 14-year-old Black child because of the color of his skin. What it is about is significant, societal change. It’s about a system that condones and emboldens racial profiling and considers Black people guilty until proven innocent,” the statement reads. “A system that exists and thrives because of institutions like the Arlo Hotel who enables the disturbing behavior of people like Miya Ponsetto, and instead of stopping the racist attack on our son, threw gasoline on the fire.”
The victim’s parents added that they hope Ponsetto will be charged with assault of their child.
“We are not interested in what she has to say, in her feigning remorse, and we certainly will not provide her a public platform and audience to do as much,” they added. “Our energy right now is directed at the healing of our son, and in bringing attention to the larger societal issues that led to the disgusting physical and verbal attack that continues to traumatize our family. This never should have happened. But the fact of the matter is, it did. 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.”
Police released Ponsetto’s mug shot Thursday night.
According to the police report, sheriff’s deputies contacted her during a traffic stop near her home.
“She did not stop for deputies until she reached her residence, and she refused to get out of the car. Deputies forcibly removed her from the vehicle and arrested her for the outstanding warrant,” the report states. “Detectives from the New York Police Department arrived in Ventura County on Thursday morning to help coordinate the arrest.”
Ponsetto was booked at the Ventura County Pre-Trial Detention Facility, where she is being held without bail for the fugitive warrant, police said. She will remain in custody pending an extradition hearing.
In a Friday morning interview with Good Morning America, Harrold Jr.’s parents said they’re grateful Ponsetto was arrested.
“She should have been arrested last week,” his mom said. “She should have been arrested a long time ago, but I am grateful that she is arrested.”
Harrold Jr. agreed.
“I’m very grateful that they finally apprehended her,” he said. “I’m happy that justice will be served.”
Harrold Jr.’s father said the boy started seeing a therapist to recover from the trauma.
“I think it’s important for not just [the] Harrows family, but it’s important for all of America that we see equal justice, that when people are falsely accused, whether it’s a Black person also accused by a white person, that that white person should be held accountable for the falsehood — especially if that is perpetrated with physical violence like we saw with this,” Crump said.
Crump and Harrold Jr.’s parents continued to accuse the hotel staff of wrongdoing, saying that the situation would not have escalated had they stepped in and done the right thing.
“I hadn’t been able to sleep since Dec. 26. So, I feel that tonight. I will be able to at least get something, but it is a start,” the boy’s mom said. “Once someone gets arrested, that doesn’t mean anything. The system has failed … us, our community. And so, we must keep pushing.”
“This doesn’t end … it’s a daily fight, and the reality is that this woman has a propensity for violence,” she added. “And the hotel enabled her to do that. And so this doesn’t end with just her being arrested. We have to change the narrative. And that comes from all the parties involved.”
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