But Miya Ponsetto, in a CBS “This Morning” interview taped before her arrest in California on Thursday, insisted race was not a factor in her attack on the teen and that her actions were not criminal.
Ponsetto’s attorney, Sharen Ghatan, on Friday called her client “emotionally unwell” and expressed concern for the woman’s erratic behavior.
“I was approaching the people exiting the hotel,” Ponsetto told CBS in a sometimes tense interview, “because in my mind anybody exiting … might be the one that is trying to steal my phone.”
She added, “I admit yes, I could have approached the situation differently or maybe not yelled at him like that and made him feel … as if I was like hurting his feelings. That’s not my intention. I consider myself to be super sweet.”
Ponsetto was arrested Thursday during a traffic stop in which she had to be forcibly removed from her car in Piru, located in Ventura County, nearly 3,000 miles from the lobby of the boutique Manhattan hotel where the physical confrontation occurred, authorities said.
‘She was on a path and that was it’
Ponsetto, in a portion of the interview aired Friday, appeared to try to justify her actions, asking, “How would you feel if you were alone in New York and you know you were going to spend time with your family during the holidays and you lose the one thing that gets stolen from you that has all of the access to the only way that you’re able to get back home?”
Ghatan, who represents Ponsetto and her mother in an unrelated case in Los Angeles, said the young woman showed up shortly before the CBS interview and disregarded her attorney’s advice about how to present herself.
“From what I saw in this interview this is a mental health issue, not a race issue,” the attorney told CNN’s Brynn Gingras on Friday. “The race, color, creed, sex made no difference to her. She was on a path and that was it. There might even be a larger issue, a mental health aspect to this and I am unclear if she knows what she is doing or saying.”
Ghatan said she was unsure whether to continue representing the woman.
The attorney said the Ponsetto family had not provided her “a formal diagnosis” on their daughter’s mental health.
“Miya is emotionally unwell, mentally unfit and lacking stability to pursue these interviews,” Ghatan said about her client’s media appearances. “It was clear to me and everyone on set that was the case. In addition, it is extremely challenging to have a client that is unable to grasp the circumstances and listen to legal counsel.”
‘Can we move on?’
In the interview, Ponsetto wore a baseball cap with the word “Daddy” stitched onto it. She was at times defensive and dismissive of her actions the day of the attack.
Pressed about the video showing her apparently assaulting the teen, Ponsetto said, “Yes, the footage shows me attacking his son. Of attacking him how? Yelling at him yes. OK I apologize, can we move on?”
At one point, she said, “I don’t feel that is who I am as a person. I don’t feel like this one mistake does define me, but I do sincerely, from the bottom of my heart, apologize … if I made the son feel as if I assaulted him or if I hurt his feelings or his father’s feelings.”
Ponsetto said she is “a 22-year-old girl,” which interviewer Gayle King suggested made her old enough to know better. Ponsetto abruptly cut her, “Alright Gayle, enough,” with a gesture for King to stop talking.
Ponsetto said the hotel had her phone. Police said the phone was returned to her at the hotel after the incident by the driver of a ride-share vehicle she had used.
The NYPD would not confirm what charges Ponsetto may be facing. Police have said she faced possible charges of assault and or grand larceny and attempted robbery. The incident is not being investigated as a bias crime, police said.
Ghatan said the NYPD was attempting to contact both her and her client while they taped the CBS interview.
Ponsetto was arrested on a “fugitive warrant in connection with a recent assault at a New York City hotel,” the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release. She was being held without bail at the Pre-Trial Detention Facility in Ventura, the sheriff’s office said.
Detectives from the NYPD were present to help coordinate the arrest, according to the sheriff’s office.
Ponsetto was picked up Thursday during a traffic stop near her home.
“She did not stop for deputies until she reached her residence, and she refused to get out of the car. Deputies forcibly removed her from the vehicle and arrested her for the outstanding warrant,” according to the news release.
Ponsetto will remain in custody pending an extradition hearing, according to the news release.
Ghatan previously told The New York Times her client is of Puerto Rican and Vietnamese descent and does not identify as White.
The NYPD had identified Ponsetto as White but also said that they were not investigating the incident as a case of racial bias.
What happened in New York City
The alleged assault happened last month at the Arlo SoHo boutique hotel, where Harrold and his son were guests.
Harrold posted a video taken with his phone that shows the woman making claims against his son.
In the video, when Harrold and his son attempt to leave, the woman approaches them, saying, “I’m not letting him walk away with my phone.” The video then shows her on the floor, but it’s unclear how she landed there. She approaches them again and the teen’s father is heard shouting for her to get her hands off before the video cuts out.
In his Instagram post, Harrold said the woman scratched him and grabbed his son. He told NBC that after the video cut off, the woman, “tackled my son, you know, trying to reach in his pockets, reach in my pockets.”
Harrold suffered slight injuries, but his son was not injured, the New York Police Department said.
CNN’s Kristina Sgueglia contributed to this report.