August 7, 2011 at 10:16 am EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Teen pleads guilty in ‘McDonald’s’ trans beating case

A 19-year-old woman who was charged with the April 18 beating of a transgender woman inside a McDonald’s restaurant in a Baltimore suburb pleaded guilty Thursday to one count each of first-degree assault and a hate crime.

The incident drew international attention after a bystander 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 an kicking Chrissy Polis, 22, in the head and body while dragging her by her hair across the floor of the restaurant.

Police said the incident started when Brown got angry after seeing Polis enter the woman’s bathroom at the restaurant and began shouting derogatory remarks about Polis’ gender identity. Police and witnesses said Brown and the juvenile then started the assault.

In a statement released on Thursday, Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott D. Shellenberger said his office will ask for a “sentence of ten years, with five years suspended, and five years to serve in jail.”

A sentencing date had not been announced as of late this week.

“On July 1, 2011, a juvenile co-defendant who participated in this crime admitted responsibility to a first-degree assault and a hate crime,” the statement says. “The juvenile was found delinquent and has been committed to a secure juvenile facility.”

Shellenberger didn’t disclose how long the juvenile would be required to stay at the juvenile facility.

The incident drew expressions of shock and outrage in the LGBT community and the community at large, both in Maryland and throughout the country. Transgender activists in Maryland have said they are hopeful that the incident would prompt the Maryland State Legislature to pass a transgender non-discrimination bill next year. The legislature deliberated over the bill earlier this year but did not pass it.

Dana Beyer, executive director of Gender Rights Maryland, a statewide transgender advocacy group, noted that the group expressed faith in the Maryland justice system and in State’s Attorney Shellenberger shortly after incident.

“We feel that faith has now been vindicated, and that justice has been obtained,” she said. “We hope this gives Ms. Polis some comfort and peace. We also trust that her experience has helped the residents of Maryland come to a deeper understanding of the problems facing the state’s transgender community, so that such incidents never happen again.”

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

  • I remember when this incident happened. I went on youtube to watch the raw video of the incident. I hope justice is served. Those two pieces of garbage including the 14 year old need to face a stiff and harsh punishment. I still cannot get those images out of my head.

  • I don’t think jail time alone will do anything to help anybody in hate crimes. I think there should be rehabilitation during and after the sentence including required therapy and community service. Jail time is only a response to the crime and doesn’t address why people do things like this.

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