Hate crime charges in McDonald's attack
The 18-year-old woman charged in an attack on a transgender woman at a Rosedale McDonald's that went viral last month will face an additional hate crime charge after being indicted Monday by a Baltimore County grand jury.
Teonna Brown, of the 2000 block of Kelbourne Rd., now faces one count of first-degree assault, three counts of second-degree assault, plus the newly-filed hate crime charge. She remains held without bond since her April 25 arrest. Brown's attorney, Timothy Knepp, declined to discuss the case in detail, but said "anything that happened, happened in self-defense."
"She's a well-mannered, thoughtful young lady, and I firmly believe that when this case comes to trial, she'll be found not guilty," Knepp said. He said hate crime charges "certainly do not apply in this case."
A hate crime charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine, which could be added to 25 years in the assault charge. Chrissy Lee Polis has said she was attacked in an apparent dispute over her using a women’s restroom.
Prosecutors “came to the only possible conclusion in deciding to try the assault on Chrissy Lee Polis as a hate crime,” said Lynne Bowman, the interim executive director of Equality Maryland. “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.”
Sandy Rawls, who founded Trans-United, a Baltimore-based group that fights transgender discrimination, praised the work of police and prosecutors in the case but said the charge is not reason to celebrate.
“It’s a tragedy for everybody involved,” Rawls said. “It’s a tragedy for the community, it’s a tragedy for Chrissy and it’s a tragedy for those two young ladies” charged in the beating.
“They’re going to find out the wrong way” that you can’t attack those you don’t understand, Rawls said.
Baltimore County State's Attorney Scott D. Shellenberger declined to comment on the case because it is pending, but said no one else will face charges.
Police and prosecutors say Brown was the woman shown on a video, along with a 14-year-old girl who is charged as a juvenile, beating Chrissy Polis inside the McDonald's as store employees looked on and laughed. Polis is shown being struck repeatedly in the head and is dragged across the restaurant by her hair, and at the end of the video appears to have a seizure. In an interview with The Sun, Polis said she believed she was attacked because she was using the woman's restroom. "It was definitely a hate crime," told The Sun on April 24.
The video was first posted to YouTube and then went viral after being uploaded to another site and linked from the Drudge Report, garnering hundreds of thousands of views.
The indictment charges Brown with assaulting Polis, as well as the McDonald's manager, Darrick Jones, and a Good Samaritan, Vicki Thoms, who tried to intervene.