NEW YORK – A woman who wrongly accused a Black teenager of stealing her phone and tackled him while being filmed at a New York City hotel apologized but defended her actions in a television interview conducted before she was arrested in California.
“I consider myself to be super sweet,” Miya Ponsetto, 22, said in a “CBS This Morning" interview that aired Friday.
“I don’t feel that that is who I am as a person. I don’t feel like this one mistake does define me,” she said. “But I do sincerely from the bottom of my heart apologize that if I made the son feel as if I assaulted him or if I hurt his feelings or the father’s feelings.”
The interview was conducted Thursday afternoon, hours before Ponsetto was jailed in Ventura County. A spokesperson for the sheriff's office there said it wasn't immediately clear what charges she faced. The office earlier said she might be charged with resisting arrest.
The New York Police Department flew detectives to California earlier Thursday with a warrant for Ponsetto's arrest. The trip followed days of intense media coverage of the fracas at the hotel and demands by the teen's family and activists that she face criminal charges.
Ponsetto's lawyer, Sharen Ghatan, said in an interview before the arrest that her client was “emotionally unwell" and remorseful for her Dec. 26 conflict with 14-year-old Keyon Harrold Jr. at Manhattan’s Arlo Hotel. Ghatan said the encounter was not racially motivated.
The teen's father, jazz trumpeter Keyon Harrold, recorded the confrontation and put the video online.
In his video, an agitated woman demands the teenager's phone, claiming he stole it. A hotel manager tries to intervene. Keyon Harrold tells the woman to leave his son alone. Ghatan confirmed Ponsetto is the woman in the video.
Security video later released by the NYPD shows Ponsetto frantically grabbing at the teenager as he tried to get away from her through the hotel’s front door. She clutches him from behind, and both tumble to the ground.
Ponsetto’s missing phone had actually been left in an Uber and was returned by the driver shortly afterward, Keyon Harrold has said.
In the CBS interview, Ponsetto said she had been approaching people exiting the hotel, thinking she was doing her part as a hotel manager reviewed video footage.
“I admit, yes, I could have approached the situation differently,” she said, recalling that she yelled at the teenager because the phone she lost had information she needed to return home after visiting family during the holidays.
She said she admitted yelling at him.
“OK. I apologize. Can we move on?” she told the morning program, insisting she saw no crime.
“How is one girl accusing a guy about a phone a crime?” she asked.
The altercation drew comparisons to cases like that of Amy Cooper, a white woman who was charged with filing a false report for calling 911 and saying she was being threatened by “an African American man” during a dispute in New York’s Central Park in May.
Ventura County sheriff's deputies arrested Ponsetto after spotting her driving near her home in Piru, northwest of Los Angeles, said department Capt. Eric Buschow.
She drove two blocks before stopping her vehicle, then refused to get out of the car, Buschow said.
“She tried to slam the door on one of the deputies and that’s when they just reached in and forcibly removed her,” he said, adding that the sheriff's office would ask county prosecutors to charge her with resisting arrest.