September 13, 2011 | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Teen sentenced to 5 years in McDonald’s beating

A 19-year-old woman charged with the April 18 beating of a transgender woman inside a McDonald’s restaurant in a Baltimore suburb was sentenced on Tuesday to five years in prison.

The incident attracted international attention after a McDonald’s employee captured the attack on video and posted it online, where it went viral.

The video shows Teonna Monae Brown and a 14-year-old female, whom authorities have not identified, repeatedly punching and kicking Chrissy Lee Polis, 22, in the head and body while dragging her by her hair across the floor of the restaurant.

Mark Scurti, Polis’s attorney, said Polis planned to attend the sentencing hearing on Tuesday but was unable to do so after experiencing recurring symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, for which she was diagnosed following the beating.

Scurti said Polis checked herself into a crisis counseling facility last Friday, which has provided assistance to Polis since the incident occurred in April.

“I continue to suffer seizures, bouts of crying, mental anguish and anxiety,” Polis said in a victim impact statement submitted to the judge prior to Tuesday’s sentencing. “I fear being alone. I have flashbacks about the attacks. I have twice now been admitted to a crisis center, and I am having extreme mental difficulty.”

The LGBT communities in Baltimore and D.C., led by transgender advocacy groups, rallied in support of Polis on several occasions, including a protest demonstration outside the McDonald’s where the attack took place.

Baltimore County Circuit Court Judge John Turnbull III sentenced Brown to 10 years in prison for each of two separate charges of first-degree assault and commission of a hate crime. He suspended five years on both counts and allowed Brown to serve the two five-year terms concurrently, which means she is required to serve a maximum of five years. Turnbull also issued a three-year period of probation upon her release from jail.

The sentencing came just over one month after Brown agreed to a government offer to plead guilty to the two charges in exchange for prosecutors limiting their request for jail time to five years.

The 14-year-old female has admitted responsibility to the same charges of first-degree assault and a hate crime, authorities said. She was sentenced earlier this year to a juvenile facility for an undisclosed period of time, prosecutors said.

“We’re very happy with the sentence today,” Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott D. Shellenberger, the lead prosecutor in the case, told the Blade after Tuesday’s sentencing. “We had an 18-year-old defendant [now 19] with no prior criminal convictions who’s going to jail for five years,” he said. “We think that reflects the severity of the beating and we think it sends a very good signal that you can’t commit these kinds of crimes in Baltimore County.”

Transgender activists said the incident galvanized the LGBT community and many straight supporters into taking action against anti-transgender bias. Members of the Maryland Legislature have pledged to push next year for passage of a transgender non-discrimination bill that died in the legislature earlier this year.

 

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

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