Family sues Soho’s Arlo Hotel for racial profiling after teen was falsely accused and attacked for theft

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Attorneys Ben Crump and Paul Napoli posed with Keyon Harrold Sr. and Katty Rodriguez as they hold up a copy of their lawsuit against Arlo Hotels.
photo by Dean Moses

Parents of Keyon Harrold Jr, a 14-year-old boy who was falsely accused of theft, announced they have officially filed a lawsuit for racial profiling against Arlo Hotel.     

Accompanied by attorneys Ben Crump and Paul Napoli, the parents of the teen, Keyon Harrold Sr. and Katty Rodriguez, called for a press conference in City Hall Park on Wednesday morning to declare they will now hit Arlo Hotels, its manager, and the boy’s accuser Miya Ponsetto with a lawsuit. The complaint accuses the hotel of racially profiling Keyon Harrold Jr.      

“This happens to marginalized people of color all the time. We are falsely accused of stuff then we have to prove our innocence. It is assumed that we are guilty, it is assumed that the burden of proof is on us,” Crump said.           

On Dec. 26, Keyon Harrold Jr. and his father entered the lobby of the Soho hotel they were staying within when a white woman by the name of Miya Ponsetto began accusing the Black minor of stealing her cellphone. When the father and son pair attempted to remove themselves from the situation, Ponsetto is seen on camera tackling Harrold Jr. to the ground. The phone was later found in the back of an Uber and not at the hotel.

The boy’s parents and lawyers declared the hotel is at fault for siding with the accuser by demanding the young man hand over his own phone to prove that he did not steal it, something Crump calls “racial profiling 101.” This is a situation the group says Black people have to deal with every day in America, which they fear could have ended in tragedy if police would have arrived to discover a Black individual wrestling with a white female, who they added was not a patron of the hotel.

Katty Rodriguez and Ben Crump raise their fists up for justice. Photo by Dean Moses

“The nineteen second video the public has seen is only nineteen seconds of a four-minute video, and that four-minute video is just a little bit of what happened that day. Our son—who was fourteen at the time—he has suffered something that will mark him forever. To be accused of theft when you have never stolen anything in your life and then to be attacked for something that you haven’t done has an impact, and it has an impact on a person of color,” Katty Rodriguez said, mother of Harrold Jr.

Rodriguez and Harrold Sr. work as prominent musicians and over the course of their travels they have seen and experienced racism, but they shared that is something their son should never have to face, especially as paying customers of a hotel that should have been a place of refuge. Harrold Sr. concluded the conference by playing the song “This land is your land” on his trumpet before stating: “Thank God my son is still here.”

Keyon Harrold Sr. played “This land is your land,” on his trumpet. Photo by Dean Moses