The woman who was caught on camera allegedly tackling a Black teenager in a New York hotel was arraigned over the weekend and freed on supervised release. Cell phone video shows Miya Ponsetto accusing 14-year-old Keyon Harrold Jr. of stealing her phone last month.
Ponsetto later appears to tackle the teen as he tried to leave the hotel. He never had her phone, and it turned up minutes later. Ponsetto is charged with attempted robbery, grand larceny, endangering the welfare of a child and attempted assault.
“CBS This Morning” co-host Gayle King spoke with Ponsetto and attorney Sharen Ghatan, before her arrest last week.
Watch part of their conversation here and read more below.
Gayle King: You seem to have attacked this teenager about the phone. And then it turned out he didn’t even have your phone. That’s the thing. I mean, you’re saying, look like, “I’m 22 years old —” you’re 22 years old, but you are old enough to know better.
Miya Ponsetto: Alright Gayle, enough. The hotel did have my phone. The hotel did end up having my phone. I did get my belongings returned to me. So, maybe it wasn’t him. But at the same time, how is it so that — as soon as I get asked to leave the premises — after I had accused this person of stealing my phone, how is it that all of a sudden, they just miraculously have my phone when I come back? And the two — it didn’t seem as if my accusations really bothered the son and the father because they were just enjoying a nice meal right after this whole encounter. But all I’m saying —
King: I don’t know if you —
Ponsetto: I want this to be over —
King: Miya, I don’t know if you could say what —
Ponsetto: and I’m sorry —
King: whether they were bothered by your — I don’t know if you —
Ponsetto: So, I would love to make this short and sweet, Gayle.
King: Miya, I want to go back to that day. Take us back to that day. We’ve all seen the video.
Ponsetto: So, I arrived back to the hotel after grabbing some Starbucks. I had noticed my phone had been missing. So I just approached the hotel manager, asked him if he could kindly just check the footage. In my opinion, I was, like, “Okay. Any person walking down could possibly be the person that might’ve had my phone.” I wasn’t racial profiling whatsoever. I’m Puerto Rican. I’m, like, a woman of color. I’m Italian, Greek, Puerto Rican.
King: You keep saying you’re Puerto Rican. Does that mean that you can’t be racist because you’re saying you’re a woman of color? Is that what you mean?
King: Well, I would disagree with that. People of color can be racist too. Do you believe that you should pay a price for this?
Ponsetto: I don’t feel that my accusation is a crime.
King: But it’s more than the accusation. It’s the way that you tackled him, it seems, on the videotape. What would you do differently? You said that you look at that tape and that’s not who you are.
Ponsetto: I think I could’ve just asked the hotel manager. So yes, I could’ve stepped aside. Or the father and I, we immediately could’ve started just speaking at a lower tone, and probably that would have handled the whole situation a lot better.
King: With all due respect, when Mr. Harrold was talking to you, it seemed to me that he was responding to you because you had accused his son.
Ponsetto: I’m saying that both of us. I said both of us.
Ghaten: Bottom line is this issue is much bigger than I think Miya is appreciating. And she sees it as a very simple thing.
Ghaten sat with Ponsetto through the entire interview, and wanted her client to feel empowered to tell her own story. But Ghaten also felt it important to provide context on Ponsetto’s state of mind at the time of the incident.
Ghaten: So let me just boil it down. She was a 22-year-old woman alone in New York. No one is with her. Her entire contacts, flight arrangements, Wi-Fi, emails, Apple Pay, her funds, her money, is all on that phone. She agreed that her behavior and her actions were definitely less than elegant, shall we say, and less than graceful and less than what anyone else would do. And she agreed. And she wouldn’t have repeated it.
King: It’s been reported that your phone was returned to you by an Uber driver. Is that true?
Ponsetto: That is not true because I arrived at the hotel with my phone in my hand.
King: Okay. Who returned your phone to you?
Ponsetto: The hotel receptionist.
King: Miya, where had the phone been?
Ponsetto: Why don’t we ask the hotel receptionist?
King: Miya, to be honest, I’m telling you, you seem to be not remorseful, to have no contrition. That you’re almost a little flippant about this. You have to understand, for this teenage boy who says that he was shattered, who said that he was traumatized, this is a big deal.
Ponsetto: I’m traumatized.
King: You’re traumatized too because?
Ponsetto: Yeah, and I’m sorry. I’m sorry from the bottom of my heart. He is honestly — he’s 14? That’s what they’re claiming? Yeah. I’m 22. I’ve lived probably just the same amount of life as him. Like, honestly. I’m just as a kid at heart as he is. I feel sorry that I made the family go through, like, all of that stress. But at the same time, it wasn’t just them going through that.
King: I just don’t think that you helped yourself by your behavior.
Ponsetto: Of course not.
King: When you looked at that video, what did you think? What did you think, Miya, when you looked at the video?
Ponsetto: You already asked me that in the beginning of the interview. I’m not going over it again. I would like to have a real interview with real questions and real heart and real sincere apologies. Let 2021 be the moment of healing. Seriously.
King: Alright. What would you want an interview with real questions? I’ll give you the floor. What would you like us to know, Miya?
Ponsetto: That I’m sincerely sorry to the family and the dad and the son for making them feel as if I was racist towards them when that is not my intention.
Ghatan said she prepared Ponsetto for the interview, but the 22-year-old “went off script,” disregarding the advice she was given. Ponsetto is due back in court in March.
The parents of Keyon Harrold Jr., jazz musician Keyon Harrold and Kat Rodriguez, also spoke with King about how their son is coping and their reaction to Ponsetto’s arrest.
Keyon Harrold: I’m happy that she’s been arrested. But that’s only the first step in a very big conversation that needs to happen here in America that has to do with racial profiling. If I had done that, what Miya Ponsetto had done to my son, I’d be in jail now. If I had hurt her in any way, I’d be in jail now. We wouldn’t even be able to have this conversation. As a Black man, every day I walk outside, I have to play the perfect game, almost like throwing a no-hitter, just to be believed.
Gayle King: The hotel has said, Keyon, that they believe that it should’ve been handled differently.
Kat Rodriguez: I’m so angry. I’m so angry at that hotel ’cause this could’ve been deescalated. This could’ve been deescalated a long time ago.
King: We talked to Miya Ponsetto who says, “I am Puerto Rican. This was not racial profiling. I just really panicked because I didn’t have my phone.” She says race had nothing to do with this particular incident, and certainly had nothing to do with her targeting your son. What do you think when you hear that?
Harrold: No one has to say the N-word for something to be an act of racism.
King: Keyon, you must’ve been stunned when you stepped off the elevator with your son.
Harrold: I’m still in shock, Gayle. I’m still in shock at this point. I work as hard as I possibly can just to put my son in the best scenarios, to give him the chance to win, to give him a chance to be a whole young man, a whole young boy, Black boy. We’ve been all over the world and for — to be in our beloved New York City and this happened, I’m appalled.
King: I am not asking you to justify your behavior or defend yourself against her. Please know that. But her version is that, you know, “I was grabbed.”
Harrold: Pushing her away. To protect my son, yes. I’m a man who don’t believe in hurting women, first of all. Second of all, I do believe in protecting my son. So that is what I did.
King: What do you all feel, or what do you make of her apology?
Harrold: Listen, I feel like her apology was, you know, as genuine as when she shushed you. It said a lot. I have an issue with the idea of entitlement versus character.
Rodriguez: Well said.
Harrold: It’s all been tragically consistent. I’ll just say that.
Rodriguez: Yeah. “I apologize. Can we move on?” Those were the exact words that she used with you. Does that sound like an apology? She knew she assaulted a 14-year-old boy. Not a guy, not a man.
Keyon Jr. comes from a musical family. His mother is a singer and saxophonist for Beyonce. His father is a Grammy Award-winning trumpeter. They say they are using music to help their son heal from this incident.
The 14-year-old wrote a song called “Unjustified Times” and recorded it with his friends while he played the drums.
King: Kat, I’d like to know how he’s doing?
Rodriguez: When I went to hug him from behind, because I just, you know, we have such a great relationship. He said, “Mom.” He tensed up. He literally tensed up. He said, “Mom, can I ask you not to do that? It — I can’t. I can’t. I can’t.”
King: Why did he ask you not to do that?
Rodriguez: Because this young lady, which I will not say her name. She does not deserve that. This young lady blindsided him in the hotel. He keeps on asking the question, “Why? Why me, Mom? You know I wouldn’t steal anything. I didn’t know her. Why?” As a mother, to have to answer that question.
Harrold: It’s tough to look at her being arrested more than what it is. Because the person who killed Trayvon Martin is free. The person who blamed Emmett Till is still alive. Things could’ve gone another way.
King: What does justice look like for your family at this point for the both of you?
Harrold: Justice, I think the idea of justice, just like the idea of the apology, is so much more than just saying, “I’m sorry,” because people can say, “I’m sorry,” and it’s empty. Justice has to do with change.