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Miya Ponsetto, Arlo Hotel Manager and Hotel Sued by Family of Black Teen Falsely Accused of Stealing iPhone

Family of Teen Falsely Accused of Stealing Woman’s Phone Sues Miya Ponsetto, Arlo Hotel Alleging Racial Profiling

The family of a Black teenager falsely accused of stealing a woman’s iPhone is suing his accuser and the New York hotel where the incident took place.

Keyon Harrold Jr., the 14-year-old son of jazz musician Keyon Harrold, was accused by 22-year-old Miya Ponsetto of stealing her phone at Manhattan’s Arlo Hotel on Dec. 26, 2020.

Miya Ponsetto faces charges of attempted robbery, endangering a child’s welfare, attempted grand larceny in the fourth degree, and attempted assault for the alleged assault on Keyon Harrold Jr. in New York hotel lobby last December. (Photo: CBS YouTube screenshot)

The elder Harrold captured footage of the incident, during which Ponsetto physically attacked the teenger.

Ponsetto’s phone was returned to the hotel shortly after the confrontation by an Uber driver who found she’d left in the vehicle.

Ponsetto faces criminal charges in the case.

The lawsuit, filed on Wednesday, March 24, names Ponsetto, the Arlo Hotel, and hotel manager Chad Nathan as defendants and alleges the hotel engaged in racial profiling.

“Defendants treated Plaintiffs differently from other guests and invitees in a place of public accommodation because of their race,” the lawsuit states.

Specifically, the suit claims Nathan “detained the plaintiffs and demanded that Keyon Harrold Jr. surrender his cellphone.”

According to the suit, Harrold Jr. was targeted while other guests in the hotel were not, which violates New York City’s Human Rights Law, which prohibits discrimination in public accommodations, housing and employment.

At a press conference Wednesday to announce the lawsuit, Attorney Paul Napoli said, “there was a lack of training to [the hotel’s] security. This is not how security is supposed to operate. There was a lack of training to the management. And so, if you’re operating a hotel in New York City, you need to be aware of the Human Rights Law.”

Ponsetto faces charges of attempted robbery, endangering a child’s welfare, attempted grand larceny in the fourth degree, and attempted assault for the alleged assault on Harrold Jr. in the hotel lobby.

Ponsetto’s lawyer said Wednesday she is currently at home in California and hasn’t been served with the legal claim.

Prior to her arrest, Ponsetto spoke about the incident during a CBS interview.

“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,” Ponsetto said in January. “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.”

The Harrolds say the false accusation Ponsetto made against their son was traumatizing for the teen. Harrold Sr. said the family sought professional therapy for the teen after he began showing fear of hotels and questioned whether he was good enough to own an iPhone.

“I have tried to instill dignity in my son. I’m trying to build his ego, because for so long egos of Black men have been shattered, Harrold Sr. told TMZ.

During the press conference, Keyon’s mother reiterated that the incident was avoidable if the hotel did more, “It might seem small to you, but the incident that happened on December 26 could’ve been deescalated before our son was attacked. The incident could’ve been prevented by the Arlo Hotel.”

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