Updated: 11:20 AM PDT, March 25, 2021
The family of a Black teen who was falsely accused of stealing a cellphone at a Manhattan hotel by a woman who tackled him is now suing the hotel, citing racial profiling. Keyon Harrold Jr’s family filed the lawsuit on Wednesday and names Miya Ponsetto, the Arlo SoHo Hotel and the hotel’s manager, Chad Nathan, in it.
Previously, in a video that had gone viral and made headlines, Ponsetto, 22, was seen attacking and falsely accusing Keyon, 15, of stealing her iPhone on Dec. 26 at the hotel. The video sparked a national uproar and Ponsetto was famously dubbed “SoHo Karen” for her actions. Ponsetto was later arrested by police in California and charged with attempted assault and attempted robbery, among other things.
Now Keyon’s family is alleging that the hotel violated New York’s human rights law by not intervening in the incident and claim that the teen was being targeted for his race, The Hill reported of the suit.
The suit, which was filed by attorney Ben Crump, alleges that as soon as Keyon and his father, Grammy Award-winning jazz musician Keyon Harrold, entered the lobby of the Arlo SoHo Hotel, Ponsetto “immediately focused their attention on them and disregarded all of the other non-African American individuals.”
In the video shot by Harrold, Ponsetto repeatedly urges the hotel manager to grab the phone in Keyon’s hands, which was later determined to be Keyon’s own phone. Nathan can be heard demanding to see the phone in Keyon’s hands. The suit accuses Ponsetto of “assault, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, false imprisonment and negligence,” among other claims, and alleges that Nathan “permitted, empowered and assisted Ponsetto to assault, batter, berate, harass, humiliate and degrade a fifteen year old African American child.”
“This is Racial Profiling 101, America,” Crump said during a press conference this week.
The suit adds that Keyon suffered “great mental distress, shock, fright, humiliation, embarrassment, emotional distress and feelings of racial stigmatization,” because of the encounter.
Ponsetto had actually left her phone in an Uber earlier that day and it was returned minutes after the incident, according to multiple reports. After the whole ordeal, Ponsetto’s lawyer told The Daily News Ponsetto knows she has “anger management” issues and wanted to apologize to Keyon. Her attorney says she reached out to Crump to organize a meeting, she said, but it appears it never happened.
“It’s horrible, what happened. She certainly should not have done that. She has some things she has to work through with herself, control issues, anger management issues. Of course she knows that,” Sharen Ghatan, Ponsetto’s attorney, told the paper in January.
Ponsetto also told Ghatan that she “freaked out” when she couldn’t find her phone because she was traveling alone and “all her flight plans, her phone numbers” were on it.