Hate Crimes Charges in Maryland Anti-Trans Attack

Following the horrendous attack on 22-year-old transgender woman Chrissy Lee Polis at a suburban Baltimore McDonald’s restaurant on April 18, two teenage women have this week been indicted on hate crimes charges.

From the Washington Blade:

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.

[Read more at the Washington Blade.]

The attack, recorded on a cellphone by a restaurant employee and posted on the Internet, saw Ms. Polis kicked and punched by two young women while she lay on the ground. She was then dragged across the floor under a barrage of blows and eventually began to convulse.

The video provoked a international outcry, not least in part because of the inaction of the majority of the McDonald’s restaurant staff who simply stood by while the attack was taking place.

Governor Martin O’Malley issued the following statement on the charges (via Equality Maryland):

“I want to commend Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott D. Shellenberger for using every available means to prosecute the heinous beating of Chrissy Lee Polis last month.

“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 session to increase awareness and provide even greater protections for transgendered people. 

“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.  We should not allow the moment to pass without greater action.”

The attack on Chrissy Lee Polis moved Delegate Joseline Pena-Melnyk (D-District 21) to call on fellow lawmakers, asking that they take up a bill to specifically protect trans-identifying individuals from discrimination in the workplace, the credit sector and public accommodations, so as to send a strong message that anti-trans hate and discrimination is not acceptable. The Legislature failed to pass a watered down bill of this ilk earlier this year. Read more on that here.

While such a bill certainly would not have helped to protect Polis from the violence she faced, it is hoped that legislation like this would make a firm statement against anti-trans prejudice and discrimination and therein feed into changing hearts and minds about the way in which trans people are both viewed and treated.

To read more background on the Gender Identity Anti-Discrimination Act, please click here.


Photo used under the Creative Commons Attribution License, with thanks to brainchildvn.


Brian C.
Brian C6 years ago

There is something wong with the attitude, in my opininon, of most people who identify themselves as "trans". There is a reason people are the way they are physically speaking, and I personally feel that while violence against "trans" is wrong, so is the attitude that changing what you are born is acceptable. I completely support prosecution of crimes against LBG's, but as a crime like any other, not as hate crimes- simply a crime. Further than that, with the exception of race and gender crimes, I do not like the idea of any hate crime designations, within our laws. While I'm sure this won't be too popular on this subject, I have to say I support the idea that no designation but race and gender should be considered a hate crime, that is redundant. I personally don't believe that our gov't should be singling out any groups but race and gender as hate crimes, simply because it goes against the idea that weare all equal. If "trans" people in America truly want to be accepted as "normal" and "equal" they should stop asking the gov't to consider them any different than the general population- the two ideas and attitudes just don't go together. Now I'm sure I'll get called insults by the the same people who consider themselves tolerant, which find ironic, but that is my opinion.

janet w.
janet w6 years ago

what happened with this?? Did McD sweep it under a rug like the situation of a McD manager punching the mother of autectic children in Atlanta.PS: Stephen K. you really should get to know the preacher,teacher,softball coach,etc. They are "normal"

Richard E Cooley
Richard E Cooley6 years ago

The women need to be punished and receive mental help. This was a hate crime and needs to be handled as such. Stephon K. you are an idiot and a bigot.

Christine S.
Christine S6 years ago

I think the girls' attacks were so much more vicious once they learned the victim was a transsexual- therefore, it was a hate crime.

Joy Jin
Joy Jin6 years ago

Stephen K. You're an idiot. I hope that these girls get maximum punishment.

Norma V.
Norma Villarreal6 years ago

Go for more than a slap on the wrist....we live in a society that feels free to bully and discriminate against anyone.

Cheryl D.
CHERYL Daniel6 years ago

Stephen K, you are a sick, sick man. I feel sorry for you. Can anyone say "bigot?"

Lyn F.
Lyn F.6 years ago

So according to some here, using the bathroom is a special right...The only ones I know that believe this to be true are mothers of preschoolers who are constantly harassed by their offspring especially while in the bathroom! ha ha, ok, but seriously, if the same girls had lived a half a century earlier under Jim Crowe law, they would be the ones being beaten to a pulp for using the wrong restroom at the wrong time. Ironic huh, except it probably wouldn't have been news and most people would not have cared. The judge should have sentenced all the kids involved to receive black history and diversity courses while incarcerated.

Laura D.
Laura D6 years ago

Regarding this story--while what the girls did was despicable and they should be charged fully for the assault, I find the idea of hate crimes absurd and dangerous. A hate crime legislation is thought crime legislation. Think of it. I barely survived a brutal attack from someone and learned later they did it because they wanted to rape and kill me, I'm not going to sigh with relief and think "Whew, at least it wasn't because I was an asexual white woman--that would have been *so* much worse!"

I doesn't matter why a person attacks you. Any violent crime against another person is a hate crime. Personally, I am *very* wary of any law that tries to assign "bad, not as bad, worse" mentality to criminal motivations. If someone is trying to rape or kill you, it's not going to matter what the reason is. To say that an assault is worse for having been done for one particular reason over another reflects someone else's reasoning or feelings, and not necessarily mine.

Laura D.
Laura D6 years ago

David J, care to explain why it is so gawddawful for an adult to choose to change their sex. If they are willing to go through with it, being a different sex must be important to them. Really, what is so horrid about a man being a woman, or a woman being a man?

If you call that "mutilation", than correcting cleft palates on children is mutilation as well. I suspect you've never met or really known anyone who was transgender. If you did, you'd realize how insulting and demeaning that attitude is towards people who really are transgender.

There is nothing barbaric about helping people. If changing some aspects of anatomy can help people, than by all means let them have surgery! We are talking about *adults* here--not children forced to undergo circumcision (male or female).