Woman hedges apology in tense interview on hotel attack

National

This booking photo provided by Ventura County Sheriff’s Office in California shows Miya Ponsetto. Ponsetto, who falsely accused a Black teenager of stealing her phone and then tackled him at a New York City hotel on Dec. 26 , 2020 was arrested Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021 in her home state of California. She was jailed in Ventura County, a spokesperson for the sheriff’s office there said. It wasn’t immediately clear what charges she might face. (Ventura County Sheriff’s Office via AP)

NEW YORK (AP) — A white woman who wrongly accused a Black teenager of stealing her cellphone and tackled him at a New York City hotel appeared to back off her apology in a TV interview that aired Monday, suggesting without evidence that maybe he did try to steal her phone after all.

“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 that all of a sudden they just miraculously have my phone at the back?” 22-year-old Miya Ponsetto said in the interview on “CBS This Morning.”

The interview was conducted Thursday, hours before Ponsetto was arrested in Ventura County, California, over the Dec. 26 confrontation with 14-year-old Keyon Harrold Jr. Ponsetto was charged Saturday in New Yorkwith attempted robbery, grand larceny, acting in a manner injurious to a child and two counts of attempted assault, according to city police.

Security video released by the police shows Ponsetto frantically grabbing at Harrold as he tries to get away from her through the front door of Manhattan’s Arlo Hotel. The teen’s father, jazz trumpeter Keyon Harrold, has said that Ponsetto’s phone had actually been left in an Uber and was returned by the driver.

In the first part of the CBS interview, broadcast Friday, Ponsetto told host Gayle King, “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 was frequently combative in the clips that aired Monday, interrupting King and her own attorney, Sharen H. Ghatan.

Ponsetto said she was “sorry from the bottom of my heart” but added, “He’s 14? That’s what they’re claiming? Yeah, I’m 22, I’ve lived probably just the same amount of life, like honestly. I’m just as a kid at heart as he is.”

When King asked her to go over the events at the hotel, Ponsetto said, “You already asked me that at 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.”

Ponsetto’s arrest followed more than a week of media coverage of the hotel lobby encounter and demands by the teen’s family and activists that she face criminal charges over what was seen as an instance of racial profiling.

In the CBS interview, Ponsetto denied profiling the teenager and said her heritage is partly Puerto Rican. When King asked her if she believed a person of color could not be racist, she said, “Exactly.”

“I feel sorry that I made the family go through all that stress but at the same time it wasn’t just them going through that, “she said in a “CBS This Morning” interview that aired Friday. “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.”

At a news conference on Monday in New York City, the teen’s family called for a boycott of the hotel, claiming it had racially profiled him in its response.

“This is the reality of Black mothers in America,” said his mother, Kat Rodriguez. “Every day we must face the reality that a simple case of mistaken identity or a misunderstanding can end in tragedy.”

Management of the Arlo Hotel previously posted on Facebook that they had reached out to apologize to the family.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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