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Md. juvenile authorities seek release of youth charged in transgender beating case

Baltimore County prosecutors oppose early release of Chrissy Polis attacker



Chrissy Lee Polis was attacked earlier last April.

The Maryland Department of Juvenile Services is taking steps to obtain the early release of a 15-year-old female who pleaded guilty to the April 2011 hate crime beating of transgender woman Chrissy Lee Polis at a McDonald’s restaurant outside Baltimore.

According to Baltimore County Assistant State’s Attorney John Cox, DJS officials recently informed his office that they planned to petition a juvenile court judge to grant early release for the juvenile. Cox said his office will oppose the early release request at a court proceeding expected to take place later this month.

“We will definitely make it known to the judge that we oppose this,” Cox told the Blade on Thursday.

The juvenile, whose name has been withheld, was 14 at the time police arrested her and then 18-year-old Teonna Brown in connection with the Polis beating case. Both pleaded guilty to first-degree assault and the commission of a hate crime.

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

The video shows Brown and the juvenile repeatedly punching and kicking Polis in the head and body while dragging her by her hair across the floor of the restaurant. Polis was 22 at the time.

Police and witnesses said the incident started when Polis attempted to use the women’s bathroom at the McDonald’s and the two teens who attacked her denounced her for being a guy dressed as a woman.

Brown, who was charged as an adult, was sentenced to five years in prison and three years of probation, which is to begin at the time her release. The juvenile was sentenced to a juvenile offender facility for an undetermined period of time.

Transgender activists cited the case as an example of the discrimination and violence often experienced by transgender people. They used the incident to build greater support for a transgender non-discrimination bill pending in the Maryland General Assembly.

Jay Cleary, a spokesperson for the state’s Department of Juvenile Services, said his agency is barred from discussing specific cases under a state privacy law pertaining to juveniles.

In commenting on cases in general, he said state law and policies for juvenile offenders sentenced to incarceration call for providing them with services and treatment in a “secured facility” for from thirty days to a year depending on their needs and the circumstances surrounding the case.

He said DJS has a staff of experts, including psychiatrists, who evaluate the juveniles to determine whether they are no longer a threat to the community or to themselves and may be ready for release into the community. Once released, Cleary said, they continue to receive treatment and services while in the care of a group home, foster parents, or in the home of their own parents if the experts deem that appropriate.

DJS recommends to a juvenile court judge whether a juvenile offender should be released from a secured facility and a judge makes the decision on whether to accept the recommendation, he said. If the recommendation is contested by prosecutors, a court hearing is held to give the parties an opportunity to argue their respective positions, Cleary said.

Cox said that under Maryland law, DJS operates the state’s juvenile detention and rehabilitation facilities and programs. He said that in most cases where juveniles are sentenced to incarceration under the state juvenile justice system, no specific length of time is set for the incarceration.

He said the DJS determines when a juvenile offender has been rehabilitated to a degree where he or she is ready for release. It then petitions a juvenile court judge to seek release of the juvenile, with the judge making the final decision on the request for release.

Cox said the judge would take into consideration the position of the prosecutor, which, in this case, is the Baltimore County State’s Attorney’s office.

Mark Scurti, an attorney representing Polis, said he plans to inform the court that Polis joins the State’s Attorney’s office in opposing early release for the juvenile. He said he would seek permission to have Polis testify in opposition to the release if the judge calls a court hearing on the matter.

Scurti has said Polis overcame the physical injuries she received in the attack but suffers from post traumatic stress disorder, which was brought about by the attack.

Dana Beyer, executive director of Gender Rights Maryland, a transgender advocacy group, said her organization won’t second guess the action by DJS or the judge that makes the final decision on the possible release of the juvenile charged in the Polis case.

“We stand by the action by the state prosecutor who prosecuted Ms. Brown as an adult in this case and we would stand by he action of the juvenile justice system in the juvenile case,” Beyer said.

“But what we would like to see is a change in the culture that would ensure that this type of violence doesn’t occur again,” she said.

Beyer said Gender Rights Maryland also would welcome a decision by Baltimore County and state officials to testify before the County Council and before the state General Assembly on behalf of pending transgender non-discrimination bills expected to come up for a vote this year in both bodies.


District of Columbia

Bowser’s highest-level adviser resigns after sexual harassment allegation

Female staffer accuses John Falcicchio of longstanding abuse



John Falcicchio (Screen capture via WUSA9)

Lawyers representing a D.C. government employee shook up the city’s political establishment on Monday when they announced that the employee filed a sexual harassment complaint against John Falcicchio, the now former D.C. Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development and Mayor Muriel Bowser’s longtime chief of staff.

The attorneys, Debra Katz and Kayla Morin, did not identify the city employee. 

The announcement by Katz and Morin in a press release came shortly after Mayor Bowser issued her own announcement at a news conference on the same day. The mayor confirmed that Falcicchio’s sudden resignation last Friday, March 17, followed her decision to launch an investigation into allegations against Falcicchio.    

But Bowser said issues surrounding her longtime adviser’s departure amounted to “a sensitive matter that includes privacy concerns” that prevented her from disclosing why she initiated the investigation and why Falcicchio abruptly resigned. 

She said the investigation was being conducted by the city’s Office of Legal Counsel, which is “following established policies and procedures” and that all relevant D.C. government staff members were fully cooperating with the investigation.

“I can also tell you that this investigation does not involve any allegations of improprieties related to business transactions,” Bowser told reporters attending the news conference, which was initially called to celebrate the completion of the city’s 9th Street, N.W. protected bike lane project and to discuss updates on the Capital Bikeshare program.

“I have every confidence in my new chief of staff, Lindsey Parker, and in our new Interim Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, Keith Anderson,” Bowser said at the news conference. “And I have immense confidence in the 37,000 employees of the D.C. government who will keep us moving forward,” she said.

Parker has served as the city’s chief technology officer since 2019 and as assistant city administrator since 2022. Anderson has served as director of the D.C. Department of General Services, which oversees the city’s buildings and properties.  

“We represent an employee of the District of Columbia who came forward to report serious allegations of sexual harassment by former Chief of Staff and Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development John Falcicchio,” the statement released by attorneys Katz and Morin says.

“It is our understanding that this behavior is longstanding, and our client is cooperating fully with the investigation, which Mayor Bowser initiated immediately,” the statement continues. “Our client is courageous. She came forward to ensure accountability and protect other women,” it says. “Given the gravity of our client’s allegations – which involve unwelcome advances and sexual contact – we ask the media to respect her privacy,” the statement says.

It concludes by encouraging “everyone affected” to contact Maia Ellis, the Associate Director of the Mayor’s Office of Legal Counsel, who’s leading the investigation, at [email protected].

Katz is a founding partner and Morin is an associate of the D.C. law firm Katz Banks Kumin, which specializes in sexual harassment law, whistleblower law, and employment law, according to a write-up on its website.

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Md. Senate approves transgender rights bill

Maryland House of Delegates passed similar measure on Saturday



Md. state Sen. Mary Washington (D-Baltimore City) speaks at a press conference for the Trans Health Equity Act on Feb. 14, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Linus Berggren)

The Maryland Senate on Monday approved a bill that would require the state’s Medicaid program to cover gender-affirming treatment for transgender people.

Senate Bill 460 or the Trans Health Equity Act passed by a 31-15 vote margin. 

“Requiring, beginning on Jan. 1, 2023, the Maryland Medical Assistance Program to provide gender-affirming treatment in a nondiscriminatory manner; requiring that the gender-affirming treatment be assessed according to nondiscriminatory criteria that are consistent with current clinical standards; prohibiting the issuance of an adverse benefit determination related to gender-affirming treatment unless a certain experienced health care provider has reviewed and confirmed the appropriateness of the determination; etc,” reads a summary of the bill.

The Maryland House of Delegates on Saturday passed a similar measure.

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Md. House of Delegates approves transgender rights bill

State Medicaid program would be required to cover gender-affirming treatment



Md. state Sen. Mary Washington (D-Baltimore City) speaks at a press conference for the Trans Health Equity Act in Annapolis, Md., on Feb. 14, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Linus Berggren)

The Maryland House of Delegates on Saturday approved a bill that would require the state’s Medicaid program to cover gender-affirming treatment for transgender people.

House Bill 283, or the Trans Health Equity Act, passed by a 93-37 vote margin. The measure now goes before the Maryland Senate.

“Proud that the MD House of Delegates passed the Trans Health Equity Act with such a strong majority,” tweeted state Del. Anne Kaiser (D-Montgomery County), who introduced HB 283.

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