Called “Soho Karen” on the Internet, the California woman has not pleaded guilty to the hate crime charges against her.
Miya Ponsetto, 22, made headlines in December when she allegedly assaulted a black teenager in the lobby of a Soho hotel in New York City, falsely accusing him of stealing his phone.
On Wednesday, during a virtual appearance in front of a Manhattan court, Ponsetto pleaded not guilty to being charged with illegal double incarceration as a hate crime, aggravated stalking and endangering child welfare, PEOPLE can attest.
In a statement to People, Ponsetto’s attorney, Paul D’Emilia, described the accusation as “opportunistic” and “shameful.”
“The alleged allegations are a blatant and flagrant violation of the intent of the law,” D’Emilia said. “Still, they are absurd and a perversion of our legal system.”
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.
“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…”