Family of Black teen wrongly accused of theft filing racial profiling lawsuit against NYC hotel

SOHO, Manhattan (WABC) -- The family of a Black teenager who was falsely accused of stealing a cellphone in a hotel lobby is filing a lawsuit against the hotel and the woman who made the accusation.

The family of Keyon Harrold Jr. held a press conference on Wednesday to announce the filing of a racial profiling lawsuit against Arlo Hotels and Miya Ponsetto.

Video shot by the teen's father, musician Keyon Harrold Sr., went viral after the incident in December.

"What Arlo did to perpetuate the system of bias and bigotry was apparent on videotape," he said. "I showed them the video before anybody else ever saw it, and you know what they told me? 'She was just having a bad day, don't worry about it.'"

The family says Arlo Hotel management did not support them after Ponsetto allegedly attacked the teen, especially considering they were guests.

They say the hotel manager actually empowered Ponsetto by asking the minor to give his cell phone up to prove that he was innocent of the false allegations. Her cell phone was later found in an Uber.

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The family is represented by civil rights and personal injury attorney Ben Crump.

"The management at the Arlo Hotel said the burden is on you, Keyon, give us the phone to prove that what this white woman is saying isn't true," Crump said. "This is racial profiling 101 America."

Ponsetto is facing criminal charges in the incident, though the family says they're still waiting to hear whether the Manhattan District Attorney's office will file hate crime charges.

The NYPD sent officers to California to search for her in January.

The hotel released a statement after the incident apologizing to the family and acknowledging they could have done more.

Harrold Jr.'s mother says her son has suffered something that will scar him forever.

"It could have been a lot worse because it escalated so fast and the Arlo's idea of de-escalation did not exist," Harrold Sr. said.

Paul D'Emilia, Ponsetto's attorney, released the following statement regarding the lawsuit:

"My office, together with the Manhattan DA's Office, are diligently working towards a resolution of this case. Our goal remains to handle this matter through the proper judicial channels and not through various media outlets. Ms. Ponsetto remains at her home in California and has not been informed of any pending civil lawsuit in which she has been named."

Eyewitness News has reached out to the Arlo Hotel for a response to the newly filed lawsuit and is awaiting comment.

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Keyon Harrold and his son -- along with mother Kat Harrold and attorney Ben Crump -- speak out after they say a woman attacked the Black 14-year-old, accusing him of stealing her phone.

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