Ventura, County, Ca., sheriff’s deputies arrested Miya Ponsetto, who was caught on video tackling a Black teenager in the lobby of a New York City hotel after falsely accusing him of stealing her cellphone, the New York Times reports. The episode has drawn comparisons to another incident in which a white woman called 911 to claim falsely that a Black bird-watcher in New York’s Central Park was threatening her life. The hotel video was posted on social media by Keyon Harrold, a prominent jazz musician who was staying at the hotel with his son, Keyon Jr., 14. In the video, Ponsetto can be seen confronting the Harrolds on Dec. 26 after they walk into the lobby, insisting without evidence that Keyon Jr. has her cellphone. Surveillance footage shows Ponsetto running after Keyon Jr. and tackling him.
A Uber driver found Ponsetto’s phone later in the day. Ponsetto faces unrelated charges in California of lewd conduct and driving while intoxicated. Her lawyer, Sharen Ghatan, said Ponsetto, 22, regretted her actions and wanted to apologize in person to Harrold and his family. Ghatan said Ponsetto was not targeting the Harrolds because of their race. She is of Puerto Rican and Vietnamese descent and does not identify as white. “She’s not trying to make any racial statement,” Ghatan said. “She’s … of mixed cultural descent. She’s not some blond-haired, blue eyed privileged white lady. She literally just wanted to get her phone back.” Ponsetto saw Keyon Jr. with a phone and thought it was hers, Ghatan said. Harrold said Ponsetto’s actions demanded more than an apology. He said her behavior reflected a systemic problem of Blacks being seen as threats or outsiders.