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‘SoHo Karen’ Miya Ponsetto Charged with Hate Crime in NYC Attack on Black Teen, Pleads Not Guilty

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Miya Ponsetto, also known as “SoHo Karen,” has pled not guilty to felony hate crime charges surrounding an incident involving her attacking a Black teen at a SoHo hotel.

What We Know:

  • Ponsetto, 22, attacked the 14-year-old son of Grammy-winning trumpet player Keyon Harrold at the Arlo SoHo Hotel in New York, NY. She falsely accused the teen of stealing her cellphone while in the hotel lobby. The teen repeated multiple times that he did not have Ponsetto’s phone; however, the hotel manager forced the teen to turn over his phone. Ponsetto then physically attacked the 14-year-old, and they both fell to the ground.
  • Harrold recorded part of the Dec. 26th, 2020 altercation on his cellphone and posted the video to social media. Ponsetto was arrested in Piru, California, on charges of two counts of attempted assault, attempted robbery, grand larceny, and endangering the welfare of a child. Her cellphone was later found in the car of an Uber.
  • “SoHo Karen” only questioned Harrold, his son and an Asian individual, about the whereabouts of her cellphone. She did not question any of the White people that passed her in the lobby or attack them the way she did the teen, causing people to believe she only went after the teen because he was Black. Ponsetto initially apologized during an interview with Gayle King on CBS This Morning back in January but consistently contradicted herself throughout the interview. She even wore a “Daddy” baseball cap during the interview, which both King and Ponsetto’s lawyer suggested she should remove.

  • On Wednesday, Ponsetto pleads not guilty to all charges and is under a “supervised release” order. Paul D’Emilia, Ponsetto’s lawyer, criticized Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance for pursuing the charges. He believed the charges “are a brazen and clear overreach of the intent of the statute” and “are absurd, and a perversion of our legal system.” D’Emilia claimed that Vance is focused on prosecuting a young and panicked woman who lost her beloved cellphone and all that it embodies instead of going after violent criminals that run rampant in New York.
  • New York has seen their share of “Karens” in the past year. In May 2020, Amy Cooper, also known as “Central Park Karen,” called 911 on Christian Cooper, no relation, accusing him of threatening her life. Christian only asked Cooper to put her dog on a leash, as they were located in The Ramble, a well-known area for bird watching with a dog on a leash policy.
  • Both individuals left before police arrived, but Cooper went viral for her antics. She stated that Christian targeted her and that she wasn’t racist, yet, her former employer, investment firm Franklin Templeton, didn’t care about excuses and ended up firing her. Cooper is now suing her former employer for not fully investigating the incident prior to her termination and that they only fired her because she is a white woman.

The Harrold family filed a lawsuit against Ponsetto and Arlo hotel manager Chad Nathan for racial profiling and the effects the incident left on the teen. Their lawyer, Ben Crump, said the family would release a statement later. Ponsetto is set to return to court on October 20th.

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Crime

Classes canceled at Howard University as US Government investigates ransomware cyberattack

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Howard University officials along with leading cyber experts are trying to assess what has been compromised in an active ransomware, cyberattack on the HBCU campus. Officials have deemed the attack criminal.

What We Know:

  • Monday, the university issued a statement to faculty and students that “the service disruption was caused by a ransomware cyberattack against the university.”
  • Classes have been canceled for Tuesday and Wednesday. Students have been notified that online and hybrid classes will remain canceled and only essential staff will be allowed on campus. All in-person undergraduate, graduate, professional, and clinical experiential courses will resume as scheduled on Wednesday.
  • A ransomware attack can be triggered by simple, everyday activity. Opening a unintended link inside of can lead to a cyberattack.  Computer, tablet and phone users are encouraged to change their passwords and security questions regularly.

Howard University is home to several notable high profile Black alumni such as Chadwick Boseman and Phylicia Rashad.

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Crime

New Orleans 911 Operator Wanted After Allegedly Disconnecting Calls on Purpose

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A New Orleans 911 operator deliberately disconnected emergency calls without obtaining necessary information or relaying the callers’ emergencies to other dispatchers, and she is now facing arrest, according to authorities.

What We Know:

  • Precious Stephens, 25, is wanted on a count of malfeasance in office, and she remained at large Thursday, police said. She has been fired from her job as a 911 operator, officials said.

“(The district) has and will continue to cooperate with the … investigation into this matter and dedicated to providing any and all assistance to aid in (the) efforts.”

  • Stephens worked for the Orleans Parish Communication District, which dispatches first responders to 911 calls. On Aug. 24, the district reported to police that Stephens had deliberately disconnected 911 calls without obtaining vital information or informing other dispatchers about the callers who were in need of help.  The district conducted an investigation into the quality of a random set of calls when they detected the problems with Stephens during her shifts Aug. 20 and Aug. 21, officials said.  A statement from the district highlighted how its own internal protocols identified the issues with Stephens, who was immediately turned over to police and dismissed from her post.

Police asked anyone who knows where Stephens is to call Crimestoppers at (504) 822-1111. Tipsters may be eligible for a cash reward.

Louisiana law defines malfeasance in office as unlawfully performing a job in public service. It can carry up to five years in prison.

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R&B Star R. Kelly Jurors Summoned for Sex Trafficking Trial

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The first phase of R. Kelly‘s trial began on Aug. 9 with a jury selection after several delays.

What We Know:

  • U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly asked potential jurors if they could keep an open mind about Kelly as he faces charges for abusing women and girls for nearly two decades. Donnelly also reminded jurors that Kelly was presumed innocent, so they should not feel influenced by any bad publicity the singer experienced because of the accusations.
  • Due to pandemic restrictions, the event took place online. Because of this, Kelly and the jurors faced difficulty popping up on the screen and the audio cut off at times.
  • During the trial, jurors will expect to hear testimonies from several of Kelly’s accusers. In addition, a judge ruled that officials may only use the women’s first names. Currently, Kelly faces sex trafficking charges. Scrutiny around Kelly’s sexual behavior has followed him for decades. These include charges for child pornography. Alongside the sex-trafficking case in New York, Kelly also faces sex-related charges against him in Illinois and Minnesota.
  • In addition, prosecutors might provide evidence that Kelly schemed with others to buy a fake ID for late R&B singer Aaliyah. In 1994, when Aaliyah was only 15, Kelly married and began a sexual relationship with her; it is also speculated he impregnated her. Prosecutors believe he married her so that she could not testify against him.
  • In regards to his sex-trafficking trial, Kelly denies any wrongdoing; he has pleaded not guilty to leading a criminal enterprise of managers, bodyguards, and other employees who recruited women and girls for sex. Concerning the criminal enterprise, federal prosecutors reported the group found victims at concerts and other venues. After recruiting the women and children, they would make travel arrangements so they could meet with Kelly. Kelly’s lawyers claimed the victims were “groupies” who showed up at his concerts and “were dying to be with” Kelly.

The case is scheduled to officially begin on Aug. 18 with opening statements.

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