May 17, 2011 | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Md. teens indicted in beating of trans woman

Chrissy Lee Polis

A Baltimore County grand jury handed down indictments Monday against two teenage girls on assault and hate crime charges for the April 18 beating of a transgender woman inside a McDonald’s restaurant in a Baltimore suburb.

The brutal beating of Chrissy Lee Polis, 22, drew international attention to the subject of anti-transgender violence when a McDonald’s employee used his cell phone to capture the attack on video and posted it online. The video went viral, pulling in hundreds of thousands of viewers in the U.S. and abroad.

The grand jury indicted Teonna Brown, 18, on first and second-degree assault and classified the offenses as hate crimes. Sources familiar with the case say a 15-year-old girl charged as a juvenile, whose identity has been withheld by authorities, faces the same charges in juvenile court.

The assault charges normally carry a maximum penalty of 25 years in jail for an adult. Under Maryland’s hate crimes law, which covers victims based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, a judge has the authority to “enhance” the penalty for an underlying charge by adding up to 10 additional years of incarceration to the sentence.

Brown has been charged as an adult.

Law enforcement observers say grand juries almost always follow the recommendation of prosecutors in deciding on charges for an indictment. In this case, the Baltimore County State’s Attorney’s office handled the prosecution.

“Today the State’s Attorney for Baltimore County came to the only possible conclusion in deciding to try the assault on Chrissy Lee Polis as a hate crime,” said Lynne Bowman, interim executive director of the state LGBT group Equality Maryland.

“As the video shows, the violent attack was directly related to the fact that Ms. Polis is a transgender woman,” Bowman said. “Lack of understanding or fear about someone who is transgender is never an excuse for violence, and when it occurs, it should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

Brown’s attorney told the Baltimore Sun his client would likely argue that she acted in self-defense, raising the possibility that she might invoke a trans-panic defense along the lines of defendants who use the so-called “gay panic defense” when charged in gay-bashing cases.

“[A]nything that happened, happened in self-defense,” attorney Timothy P. Knepp told the Sun. He added that Brown is “a well-mannered, thoughtful young lady and I firmly believe that when the case comes to trial, she’ll be found not-guilty,” the Sun reported.

The grand jury also indicted Brown on a charge of assaulting a McDonald’s customer and an employee who tried to help Polis during the attack.

The video taken by the employee shows the two teenagers punching and kicking Polis in the head and body as she curled up on the restaurant floor. One of the two attackers could be seen dragging Polis across the floor by the hair before resuming the beating.

A spokesperson for the State’s Attorney’s office said no one else would be charged in the incident. There was speculation shortly after the attack that authorities might charge the McDonald’s employee who made the video or one or more other employees who stood by without helping Polis.

Sources familiar with the State’s Attorney’s office said the Maryland criminal code doesn’t list as a crime a decision by a spectator not to step in to help a victim during an attack.

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley released a statement Tuesday commending Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger for “using every available means to prosecute the heinous beating of Chrissy Lee Polis last month.”

O’Malley added, “Even with Maryland’s hate crimes’ law, it is clear that more must be done to protect the rights and dignity of transgendered people. In the struggle for justice and equality for all, I’m committed to working with the Maryland General Assembly during the next legislative sessin to increase awareness and provide even greater protections for transgendered people.”

O’Malley was referring to a transgender non-discrimination bill that passed in the Maryland House of Delegates earlier this year but died in the State Senate when that body voted to send it back to committee.

“As some have noted, out of this awful beating has come a moment to foster a deeper understanding and respect for the dignity of all persons,” the governor said in his statement.  “We should not allow the moment to pass without greater action.”

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

18 Comments
  • WTF “An attorney for Brown is expected to argue that she acted in self-defense.” Chrissy didn’t even fight back, at all! How can that possibly be a valid defense? The perps even went back into the store to hurt her even more and also tried to drag her out to the parking lot! Give them each 10 years in prison to teach them and the other haters a lesson!

  • I truly hope a jury acquits the defendant on the hate crime charge, as hate crimes statutes impinge on free speech and provided discretion to prosectors that they should not have. In addition, I would encourage the Blade to ask a constitutional lawyer whether the Maryland hate crimes law as enacted is unconstitutionally vague. The statute defines “sexual orientation” to include a “gender-related identity.” I ask, pray tell, what is a “gender-related identity.”

    • Did you just fall off of the turnip truck?

      Perhaps you missed this movie, but it isn’t the TALK that is the problem here, it is, moreover, the BEASTING.

    • What? Free speech doesn’t cover beating someone up! It doesn’t cover killing someone either. Having a point of view is one thing, but don’t use the right to free speech as an excuse to beat up the gay community!

    • The MD hate crimes law ultimately doesn’t matter, the federal hate crime law supercedes it and clearly defines it as gender identity or gender expression.

    • Wow. Are you serious? You’re insane.

    • Frederick Douglass

      Your an idiot. Go read a book and educate yourself on the substantial amount of pedagogy already written about gender identity and expression. Additionally idiot, freedom of speech gives no one the right to then physically, savagely and brutally beat someone almost to their death. That in any language or culture is called murder or the attempted act of; and most certainly an infringement on the most basic of rights that we all possess in this beautiful country we call the United States. The right to pursue happiness and live free of prosecution for the identities that we carry.

    • If you can’t read a dictionary don’t post asking for someone else to do your research for you.” Hate Crimes” laws like all laws charge the perpetrator based on criminal ACTIONS NOT THOUGHT OR SPEECH. So you don’t even know what the heck you’re taking about and parrot what someone told you. Brilliant Einstein! You tell me how these black girls weren’t beating Chrissy Polis because they didn’t hate hate her gender identity? You can’t. That was their motive. You don’t even comprehend the hate crimes statute and yet you have the audacity to post here. You ignorant bigot! Do you bother to read before you post this trash you hear from some other follower of Glenn Beck? Shut the Front Door!

    • Speech during the commission of a felony is not protected. In the 1993 case Wisconsin v. Mitchell, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that states have the right to offer sentence enhancements based on statements made during, and prior to, a crime.

      That was a 9-0 decision. The case specifically challenged Wisconsin’s hate crime law. There is no “free speech” question with regard to hate crime legislation. It is settled constitutional law.

    • It’s when you look at someone and they don’t fit what “you” think they should look like – and choosing to allow the unknown to be felt as awkward and allowing this ignorance to turn to violence to “correct” her was wrong. You might also want to learn about “corrective rape.” Just Google it. It is very hateful what is happening. Men thinking they can “fix” a lesbian by gang raping her to show her how “good” sex with men is. The arrogant male “I’ll teach her a lesson” (lack of ) mentality.
      Take care

  • I hope these two girls get the max for what they did which is obvious! They were never the victims! Just under educated and with nothing better to do!… Give them 35++yrs and I hope that in turn they get their ass beaten in prison so they know what it feels like when more than one person gangs up on them!…Stupid Ghetto Girls!!!!

  • I was totally disgusted by the franchisee who fired the employee who made the video but kept the employees who stood around laughing at a human being was being attacked. Someone needs to publish the location of that McDonald’s so decent people will not go there.

    I agree with those who say throw the max at these two diseased sluts.

  • Any idiot viewing the video would not deem the actions of the 15 y.o. as a “child’s Actions” – She knew fully well what she was doing, and she should be tried as an adult.

    Until I see McDonalds doing a bit more for Chrissy, McDonalds is categorically off of my dining list. The whole restaurant crew stood around and cheered.

    McDonalds should man-up and support Chrissy.

  • I have to agree that both girls should be tried as adults and that a so-called “panic defense” be thrown out on the basis that it is not a valid defense for assaulting another human being so viciously.

    McDonalds Corporation should publicly support this transgendered woman and they should make sensitivity courses for their employees mandatory.

    As for the other employees in the restaurant the individual who shot the video should be held accountable for his actions as he was the one who made a comment that the defendants should leave before the police arrived. As far as I am concerned that makes him an accomplice. The Manager should be demoted and sent to a sensitivity course and the remaining employees should be written up.

    This incident was disgusting and deplorable. We have our Right Wing Conservative politicians to thank for this climate of hatred and violence. If our Congressmen and Women as well as Senators condone discrimination why should we expect anything different.

  • Time For Revenge

    The idiots that claim Hate Crimes charges are impinging on freedom of speech, no one is ever charged with a crime for speaking unless it’s a death threat. There was crystal clear motive here. When the phrase “that’s a not a woman” was uttered the true intentions of the employee observers and the perpetrators was revealed. When ‘Teonna Brown goes to prison, and she will, she’ll join the ranks of thousands of black women who feel the law is for everyone but them. They relish the sentence they get and wear like a badge of honor. It’s too bad they couldn’t send to a prison that still has hard labor.

    The 14 year old will be locked up until she’s 18 if we’re lucky. She thinks she invincible and untouchable.No doubt someone will kill her before she turns 25.

    These are the most repugnant human beings there are. They are aggressive, combative, uneducated, physically and intellectually offensive and worst of all not in prison for life.

    When transgender people travel anywhere there are blacks or Hispanics there will undoubtedly be harassment and hate speech. The police do nothing. Politicians offer band aid solutions. For Trans-people discrimination and assaults are more common than normalcy.

    Our country is full of ignorant, uneducated predators that should be stopped before they act on this innate hatred that seems to fuel their existence. The only solution is to be fully prepared for these types of human waste. GLOCK them ’till they can’t stand it.

  • Time For Revenge

    The idiots that claim Hate Crimes charges are impinging on freedom of speech, no one is ever charged with a crime for speaking unless it’s a death threat. There was crystal clear motive here. When the phrase “that’s a not a woman” was uttered the true intentions of the employee observers and the perpetrators was revealed. When ‘Teonna Brown goes to prison, and she will, she’ll join the ranks of thousands of black women who feel the law is for everyone but them. They relish the sentence they get and wear like a badge of honor. It’s too bad they couldn’t send to a prison that still has hard labor.

    The 14 year old will be locked up until she’s 18 if we’re lucky. She thinks she invincible and untouchable.No doubt someone will kill her before she turns 25.

    These are the most repugnant human beings there are. They are aggressive, combative, uneducated, physically and intellectually offensive and worst of all not in prison for life.

    When transgender people travel anywhere there are blacks or Hispanics there will undoubtedly be harassment and hate speech. The police do nothing. Politicians offer band aid solutions. For Trans-people discrimination and assaults are more common than normalcy.

    Our country is full of ignorant, uneducated predators that should be stopped before they act on this innate hatred that seems to fuel their existence. The only solution is to be fully prepared for these types of human waste.

  • I like the defense attorneys statement. Brown is a well mannered thoughtful young lady! oh REALLY? didnt she attack someone else recently in that same mc donalds? She must have some bad luck because i am 51 nad never attacked anyone anywhere

© Copyright Brown, Naff, Pitts Omnimedia, Inc. 2014. All rights reserved.
Directory powered by Business Directory Plugin