Woman Who Allegedly Attacked Black Teen in Soho Hotel Pleads Not Guilty to Hate Crime Charges

Miya Ponsetto, 22, pleaded not guilty to two counts of unlawful imprisonment as a hate crime, aggravated harassment, and endangering the welfare of a child

The California woman dubbed "Soho Karen" by the internet has pleaded not guilty to the felony hate crime charges against her.

Miya Ponsetto, 22, made headlines back in December when she allegedly attacked a Black teen while in the lobby of a Soho hotel in New York City, and falsely accused him of stealing her phone.

On Wednesday, during a virtual appearance in Manhattan court, Ponsetto entered a plea of not guilty when she was arraigned on two counts of unlawful imprisonment as a hate crime, aggravated harassment, and endangering the welfare of a child, PEOPLE can confirm.

In a statement provided to PEOPLE, Ponsetto's attorney, Paul D'Emilia, called the indictment "opportunistic" and "shameful."

"The charges alleged are a brazen and clear overreach of the intent of the statute," D'Emilia said. "In sum, they are absurd, and a perversion of our legal system."

Miya Ponsetto
Miya Ponsetto. Ventura County Sheriff's Department

On Dec. 26, Ponsetto was seen on camera approaching a Black teen and his father, jazz musician Keyon Harrold, in the lobby of NYC's Arlo Hotel.

Police say Ponsetto accused the 14-year-old boy, Keyon Harrold Jr., of stealing her phone, ultimately tackling him in an attempt to get the phone from him. (Her missing phone was later found at the hotel.)

Harrold captured the alleged assault in a one-minute video which later went viral online. The alleged incident was also seen on the hotel's surveillance camera.

Ponsetto was arrested on Jan. 7 outside her residence in Piru, California.

A police source confirmed to PEOPLE at the time that Ponsetto did not cooperate with authorities, and had to be forcibly removed from her car after nearly slamming the driver's side door on a deputy from the Ventura County Sheriff's Office.

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Hours before she was taken into custody, Ponsetto sat down for an interview with CBS This Morning co-anchor Gayle King.

"I admit, I could have approached the situation differently, or maybe not yelled at him like that or made him feel ... inferior, or like I was hurting his feelings," Ponsetto said, describing herself as "super sweet" and questioning how her actions were in any way criminal.

When King pressed her to admit her alleged actions were wrong, Ponsetto responded, "OK, so basically I'm a 22-year-old girl. Racism, uh, is … how is one girl accusing a guy about a phone a crime?" eventually snapping, "alright Gayle, enough!"

Elsewhere in the interview, Ponsetto told King that she is Puerto Rican, and thereby suggesting she was incapable of racism.

"I wasn't racial profiling whatsoever," she said. "I am Puerto Rican. I'm like, a woman of color. I'm Italian, Greek, Puerto Rican..."

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