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Police arrest Miya Ponsetto after she falsely accused Black teen of stealing her phone

Investigators coordinated with the New York City Police Department to arrest Miya Ponsetto, 22, for a fugitive warrant in Piru, California.
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The woman who was caught on camera attacking and falsely accusing the teenage son of jazz musician Keyon Harrold of stealing her phone in a New York City hotel was forcibly arrested, police said.

Ventura County officers coordinated with the New York City Police Department to arrest Miya Ponsetto, 22, on a fugitive warrant in front of her home in Piru, California, on Thursday, according to the Ventura County Sheriff.

A spokesperson for Ventura County Sheriff told NBC News Thursday Ponsetto did not stop her car after officers contacted her until she reached her home. Officers forcibly removed Ponsetto from the vehicle, saying she resisted arrest, refused to get out of the car, and tried to slam a car door on one of the deputies, the spokesperson said. It was not immediately clear what charges Ponsetto faces, but she awaits extradition to New York.

In an interview on Thursday, attorney Sharon Ghatan said her client, who was not a guest at the hotel but was intending to check-in, briefly left her items unattended in the lobby when she went to retrieve an item from Starbucks in the restroom.

When she came out, Ponsetto realized her phone was missing and asked several people in the lobby, including an “Asian gentleman,” whether they had taken her phone, Ghatan said.

The next people she asked were the Harrolds, who had just left the elevator, Ghatan said. A one-minute viral video of the Dec. 26 incident showed Ponsetto accosting the Harrold family before reporting her missing phone to management.

Tensions escalated, with Ponsetto allegedly attacking 14-year-old Keyon Harrold Jr. Police in New York City said the father “sustained scratches to his hand,” but no other injuries were reported. His father has suggested racial bias played a role in the altercation.

In an interview on Thursday, Ghatan, who is also representing Ponsetto in an unrelated case, doubled down on Ponsetto’s mental health issues and said the incident was “not about race.”

“She suffers from a lot of anxiety attacks,” Ghatan said. “She was alone … 22 years old in a city she doesn’t know, absolutely nobody there and her phone had everything about it.”

Ghatan said she was concerned for Ponsetto’s well-being, saying she was “emotionally and mentally unwell.”

On Tuesday, the attorney confirmed that her client left her phone in an Uber. Ghatan said that had the Uber driver returned her phone 15 minutes earlier, the altercation would not have happened.

“She lost her mind for a hot minute. She is sorry," Ghatan said. "Sadly, these poor Harrolds had to deal with the aftermath.”

Ghatan added that her client wanted to “move forward and put this behind her.”

Ponsetto was charged with public intoxication and battery for a Beverly Hills hotel incident on Feb. 28, according to court documents. She was also arrested on May 28 for driving under the influence in Van Nuys, California, court documents show.

A hearing for the charges related to the Beverly Hills incident was scheduled for this month, Ghatan said. In September, a judge at the Van Nuys Courthouse West sentenced Ponsetto to three years of summary probation after she pleaded no contest for driving under the influence.

Ghatan said she has been unable to reach the civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who is representing the Harrold family.

More than 100,000 people signed an online petition posted by Crump, who called for Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. to bring assault and battery charges against Ponsetto.

“Keyon Harrold Jr. will live with this trauma for life, the weight of racism on the shoulders of another generation,” Crump wrote in a statement. “He deserves better than this treatment!”

A spokesperson for the Manhattan DA previously said that the office was "thoroughly investigating this incident."

At a news conference on Dec. 30, Harrold, accompanied by Crump and the Rev. Al Sharpton, spoke publicly about the incident.

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“I can’t even come downstairs in New York City — prime New York City — and just go brunch without being attacked and wrongfully accused of something,” Harrold said. “The idea of trauma goes above any charge that could ever be had.”

“I want my son to grow up whole,” Harrold said.

In an interview with ABC's “Good Morning America” on Dec. 29, Harrold Jr. said he was “shell-shocked” over the incident.

"I would ask her why would she do something like this to a kid who has never met you at all, and I would just ask why," he said.