Hotel, woman sued by family of Black teen falsely accused of stealing phone in viral video

Northeast

MANHATTAN, N.Y. (NewsNation Now) — The family of a Black teenager who was falsely accused of stealing a woman’s cellphone at a SoHo hotel last year filed a lawsuit Wednesday alleging that the woman and the hotel engaged in racial profiling.

Attorney Ben Crump filed the lawsuit on behalf of Keyon Harrold Jr., 14, and his parents. The lawsuit alleged Arlo Hotels violated New York City’s Human Rights Law, which prohibits discrimination in public accommodations such as hotels. 

“There’s a person who looks at my son like a shark and attacks him,” Harrold said.

The family said the hotel “failed to protect” Keyon in its lobby. The teen and his father, Keyon Harrold Sr., were guests at the hotel while the woman who made the false accusation, Miya Ponsetto, was not.

Keyon’s parents said on Wednesday the teen is still upset about the incident.

Keyon and his father were exiting the Arlo SoHo Hotel lobby in December when Ponsetto suddenly accused the teen of stealing her phone without providing any evidence to suggest he was involved. 

The encounter was recorded on cellphone video, which captured Ponsetto tackling Keyon in an effort to take his own phone away from him.

Security video later released by the NYPD showed Ponsetto frantically grabbed at the teenager as he tried to get away from her through the hotel’s front door. She then clutched him from behind and both tumbled to the ground, the video showed.

“It is assumed that we are guilty. It is assumed that the burden of proof is on us,” said Crump.

Ponsetto’s phone was later returned to the hotel by an Uber driver. Critics on social media dubbed Ponsetto the “SoHo Karen.”

Additionally, the family said the hotel manager, Chad Nathan, empowered Ponsetto by asking the teen to give up his own phone to prove his innocence. 

Ponsetto, Nathan and Arlo SoHo LLC are among the defendants named in the lawsuit.

A request for comment from Arlo Hotels was not immediately returned. Paul D’Emilia, an attorney for Ponsetto, said his client has not been informed of any lawsuit.

Police also charged Ponsetto, who lives in California, with attempted assault and other crimes in connection with the incident. She was arrested in January.

A judge gave Ponsetto supervised release and granted orders of protection in favor of the victims. Ponsetto is due back in criminal court on Monday.

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