Bil Browning

Five Years in Prison for McDonalds Attacker

Filed By Bil Browning | September 14, 2011 11:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: Baltimore, Chrissy Lee Polis, hate crimes against LGBT people, McDonalds attack, Teonna Monae Brown

The 19-year-old woman who attacked transgender woman Chrissy Lee Polis in a Baltimore McDonalds has been will serve five years in Thumbnail image for Ronald McDonaldprison for her crimes. Teonna Monae Brown was convicted of first degree assault and commission of a hate crime.

The judge sentenced Brown to ten years in prison for each crime, but suspended five years from both counts and will allow her to serve the terms concurrently. Brown will also serve three years on probation following her release.

Polis, unfortunately, is still suffering from the vicious attack:

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."

So what do you think? Is five years in prison enough punishment? Or does she deserve more?

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One viewing of the video of the beating provides the answer for me: Five years is not enough. Brown and her accomplice destroyed Chrissy Polis' life. She deserves the same.

I wonder: Would Brown have been let off so easily if she'd beaten a non-trans woman into a seizure? A biologically female lesbian? A straight girl? I think we all know the answer.

Brown deserves to serve her full sentence, no parole. You can be sure that Chrissy Polis won't get any sort of break from the damage this dangerously violent thug did to her.

When I take into consideration that this is 1)a first time offense and 2) this isn't attempted murder but a a 1st degree assault along with a hate crime, the punishment is sufficient.

I do want to see the comments on this topic, though.

Kathy Padilla | September 14, 2011 12:17 PM

From what I can glean from the Maryland State Commission on Criminal Sentencing Policy report linked above. This is an average sentence for a first degree assault conviction. (5.1 years on average)

Given she was convicted for two assault charges and a hate crime - it's probably on the low side. On the other hand - she is young - and no weapons were involved.

Thanks for a reality-based, informative comment.

She plead guilty to get a reduced jail term, which was part of an agreement with the prosecutor. The prosecutor went for 1st degree assault, which is the most serious charge available for what occurred. Some prosecutors easily would have gone 2nd or misdemeanor assault for this type of incident.
Just look at these averages, the prosecutor and judge did not play games.

Assault, 2nd Degree, 1 year
Robbery, 2.4 years
Robbery with Dangerous Weapon, 4.5
Wear, Carry, Transport Handgun,1st offense .7
Assault, 1st Degree 5.1 years

Yes, the average sentence data was a reality based, researched comment.

While I think this attack was horrible and I think the sentence was about right, to me this pales next to all the unsolved murders of trans women of color which most police departments seem not too overly concerned with. I wish they would get more coverage in the press. The Polis attack was so well known because it was on YouTube and, yes, because it was black on white crime. But so many other murders and brutal attacks of trans women mostly come and go with little to no notice. The horrific amount of violence against trans women in Washington DC this past summer receives minor coverage.

I think the 5 years for a first-time attack sounds acceptable to me. Fortunately, the victim was not killed.

I think we have to resist the urge for vengeance. No amount of time in jail can justify what she did. But locking her away for fifteen years for an assault just seems out of proportion for the crime.

I hope that prison will make her see the error of her ways, but with our prison system I sincerely doubt it.

The 19-year-old woman who attacked transgender woman

So, Christy Lee Polis has been sentenced to a lifetime as a "transgender woman"? Nice. Why? So, the convicted 19 yr old could also be charged with a hate crime? From what I have read, there is some question whether the beating was over a man rather than the fact Christy was a woman of history. Who did Brown have representing her in this high profile case? A public defender with more their hands then they can handle? What kind of media pressure was placed on the judge to hand down this sentence? Five years isn't enough? Where's the justice in any of this?

When this case first appeared in the press and when it was written up in the police report, Polis was referred to as a woman. A woman beat another woman up. It may or may not have been because something was known about the specifics of her past. I wasn't at the trial. I don't know if justice was served. Has anyone taken the time to look at how other sentences have been meted out in similar situations. Two years in the pen, then if she so much as blows her nose for three years after that she'll find herself back there. I'm sure the neighborhood she'll go back to after she's let out will allow her to live the life of Joan Q. Citizen very easily. I'm sure prison will prepare her to go back into society as a productive human being - not.

How is any of this going to make Polis' life any better or easier? This little ugly situation has had so much projected onto it from the very beginning, due to the political objectives of those who have nothing to do with the situation. I don't see any justice at all.

"How is any of this going to make Polis' life any better or easier?"

It's really not the purpose of the criminal justice system to make Polis' life better or easier; I hate to put that in such a brutally honest way.

Unfortunately, Polis' will have to seek out a lot of resources for her mental and emotional health for all of the trauma. This is the point where our (woefully inadequate and sometimes bigoted) health care systems comes into play as it regards mental health.

What else do you want though? Do you want Ms. Brown to pay the cost of her medical bills? Should Polis file a suit for civil damages against Ms. Brown?

As a resident of Maryland, a member of the trans community here,and one of the planners and participants at the Rally for Peace held in support of Chrissy Lee Polis, I have spoken with Ms Polis on occasion and I too have received my fair share of hard looks followed by the under the breathe comments and sneers immediately after the incident ( I live less than 5 miles from that McDonalds) and I have followed the case and called for our justice system to be unobstructed with the heated emotions of a savage attack. I would like to clarify some points made.

1.) At the time of the attack, Ms Polis was not identified as a woman, but as a transgender woman in The Baltimore Sun, the paper of record in the state. Her male name was on the released police report in the header ( it was not blocked out.) The website, The Smoking Gun, released the police incident report and thereby, outed Ms Polis by name.

2.) The evident gathered and obviously presented to the defendant's attorney in addition to the viral video clearly showed enough evidence that the prosecution had a solid case. It is a defense attorney's job provide their client the most sound counsel possible. Ms Brown's attorney felt it wise to cop a plea for she was facing some serious charges. What you failed to mention was Ms Brown's bail was denied because she has been changed for a similar offense, almost one year earlier at the VERY SAME McDonalds!. Clearly a troubled youth in need of an intervention. We can debate the merits or lack thereof within our penal system. I'm not a fan of the lack of rehabilitation provided, but justice includes protecting the public safety and Ms Brown is a clear threat. 5 years ( most likely less with good behavior) and 3 years probation serves to protect the community of Rosedale and greater Baltimore.

3.) Nothing about the sentence is designed to make Ms Polis' like specifically better, short of the protection mentioned on the second point. Ms Polis has a community in Baltimore willing to let her shield herself for all of the nonsense coming at her. She has resources available to her and competent legal representation. As the former moderator of the Gender Identity Group, Maryland's largest peer lead gathering of transgender persons, it current moderators are an outstanding group capable of letting her attend, breathe, and heal.

You raise more questions than you answer, Jenna.

You say

1.) At the time of the attack, Ms Polis was not identified as a woman, but as a transgender woman in The Baltimore Sun, the paper of record in the state. Her male name was on the released police report in the header ( it was not blocked out.)

from the Baltimore Sun, the newspaper you say is the "paper of record in the state":

Equality Maryland said the victim is a transgender woman and called on state Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler to step in and investigate the case as a hate crime.

that's what Equality Maryland said. Here is what the police say and what the Baltimore Sun, "the paper of record" says:

Police and prosecutors said they did not know whether the victim is a transgender woman.

I know Christy Lee Polis has a police record. Maybe some of her arrests and/or convictions came before she had a legal name change.

Are there any activists in Maryland helping people with legal name changes? Are there any activists working with the media and police to protect the privacy of people who have made legal name changes and who have either had a legal sex change or gender markers changed on their identity documents in Maryland(I am not sure what the law says concerning identity documents in Maryland). Do groups like GLAAD do anything in this regard on behalf of people who are transgender and those with a transsexual history? I think this stuff has begun to be taken seriously in Australia. The Brigett Fell incident might have had something to do with it. It isn't easy to get an account that isn't sensational, which is the essence of the issue, but here is a link to look at :

You say:

It is a defense attorney's job provide their client the most sound counsel possible. Ms Brown's attorney felt it wise to cop a plea for she was facing some serious charges.

O K. Who was her defense attorney? Was it a public defender? Why did the attorney feel it was wise to "cop a plea"? Was the attorney too busy to give the case the attention it required? Was there too much pressure from political groups like Equality Maryland, the media, etc. for Ms. Brown to get a fair trial?

You write:

What you failed to mention was Ms Brown's bail was denied because she has been changed for a similar offense, almost one year earlier at the VERY SAME McDonalds!. Clearly a troubled youth in need of an intervention.

Well this seems very interesting. Was the victim also someone you would characterize as someone who was "part of the 'trans community' in Maryland"? If not and one combines that fact with the fact that Christy, in her own interview says, ""Really, to tell you the truth, it just seemed to me they would have picked a fight that night and to find out that girl was only 14 . . ."; what the 18(at the time)yr old girl and the 14 yr old girl did would not seem to have been motivated by hate for transgender people or people with transsexual histories. If that is so, where is the justice of Ms. Brown being convicted of a hate crime? It would seem to me she had very bad legal representation if that were the case and all the political pressure pushing for a harsh sentence would have also created a situation where she wouldn't have been able to get a fair trial.

This whole thread is so far down at the bottom of pile at Bilerico. No one has even considered any of these very valid questions. I think it's time for the people here to stop and consider what they're doing here.


The claim of "paper of record" is backed by the fact that in order to post your legal notice of name change, The Baltimore Sun is listed by the court system as a paper of record, in addition to the Daily Record, a legal publication and the Afro American, an African American newspaper with root in Baltimore. , so yes, I do not put quotes around it. But I live in Baltimore, so I know these things.

Victim of McDonald's beating speaks out
Transgender woman calls attack 'hate crime,' has been afraid to be seen in public
April 24, 2011|By Jill Rosen, The Baltimore Sun
A transgender woman beaten at a Baltimore County McDonald's spoke out on Saturday, saying that the attack was "definitely a hate crime" and that she's been afraid to go out in public ever since.

"They said, 'That's a dude, that's a dude and she's in the female bathroom,' " said Chrissy Lee Polis, 22, who said she stopped at the Rosedale restaurant to use the restroom. "They spit in my face."

If you lived in Maryland you would know Equality Maryland is not a factor at all in the transgender community and at the time of the attack was in complete disarray

Now, for those so unaware, the Washington Blade is the gay paper of record. You may place that in quotes too, but I believe even Bil Browning would recognize that is a valid statement.

You're just grasping at straws and inventing a narrative which doesn't exist. I live here. I am around the things you wish to speak on as some sort of expert and you have truly no idea about what you are speaking.

I wish you luck in finding your answers.

And her name is Chrissy, not Christy.

Hi Jenna,

Yes, you are correct. Her name is Chrissy. I don't know how I missed that.

The first two quotes I used in my last reply come from the Baltimore Sun article Bil linked to. I separated the two. Equality Maryland may be in disarray but someone associated with them seemed to find it necessary to contact the state attorney general about Polis and push to have the incident investigated as a hate crime. In the same paragraph from the Baltimore Sun, it says neither the police nor the attorney general knew whether Polis was transgender or not.

Alex Blaze linked to the police report in a post at Bilerico a day or two after Bil's original post at Bilerico that he links to in the post above. The police report has been redacted. The Baltimore Sun articles linked to here came after a series of articles on April 22, 2011. This happened a while ago but I remember the first reports that came in characterized her as "a woman". Here is one right here that was posted on April 22, two days before all the Baltimore Sun articles that are now being linked to:

and from WBAL Baltimore on the same day:

"ROSEDALE, Md. -- Baltimore County police continued the investigation into a beating at a restaurant in Rosedale that one group said should be prosecuted as a hate crime.
Police said a 14-year-old girl has been charged as a juvenile in the beating, while charges are still pending against an 18-year-old woman. The woman declined to be interviewed, according to 11 News reporter Sheldon Dutes."

I don't really have time for this but I went and checked out a few stories since I started writing this reply. Equality Maryland, whether it was in disarray or not, is mentioned in several of the stories advocating for investigation of a hate crime. In one of the articles, I believe it was the Baltimore Sun, it is mentioned that Polis believes the beating might be racially motivated. It doesn't sound like it was a direct quote. I do notice how the Baltimore Sun article you link to starts out. Check the video out where Chrissy speaks for her self(I linked to it in one of my previous comments), not Jill Rosen writing for an entity trying to sell newspapers and you will find there is a contradiction:

"I came out of the bathroom the girl spit in my face. She said are you trying to talk to my man?
No, I didn't know that was your man at all."

Chrissy, in her video interview clearly says, "I am really appalled that all my charges were brought up on the internet. That has NOTHING TO DO WITH WHAT THE FIGHT WAS CAUSED . . . "

I just reviewed the video. I think it is a Baltimore Sun video. It stopped at what I quoted above with about a minute left on it and it's making my computer overheat. I have seven or eight windows open at the moment on the various news articles regarding this incident. The point is, what Chrissy says in her own words contradicts what the Baltimore Sun article says. The tone Chrissy uses in her video interview is much different than the newspaper article.

You have not dispirited me my accusing me of grasping at straws. What went on here is not a simple matter. My time is limited. I have already used up way too much of it. Privacy is important. My memory did serve me well. Chrissy is post her surgical sex changing medical procedures. Whether she had a chance to get all her medical documentation together or not, she clearly states in her video interview that she is distraught about having her privacy violated and having her personal situation dragged over the internet. As I said the horror of the incident was adequately conveyed in the early coverage of the story by simply describing her as a woman. As far as whether the girls got adequate legal representation that subject is open to question.

As a trans woman I am conflicted about this. Yes, crimes against us need to be taken seriously. But we have far too many people in prison already, and I don't see sending the attacker to prison as helping anybody here. I don't think she'll come out of prison a better person and will probably hate trans people as much or more than before she went in. The attack has already happened, it can't be taken back. We need to stop the cycle of attacks. Frankly, I'd rather see the money that would be spent keeping Brown in prison for 5 years be redirected to treatment and assistance for Chrissy so she can recover from this assault. Also, some sort of mandatory treatment program for Brown so she can learn to respect people's differences.

Five years...I think it was too light. As much as I don't like watching such things that video showed clear intent. There was no intent to stop. Only the intervention of the one older lady and the manager saying the police were almost there did they even think of leaving. The intent was murder.

Britney Austin | September 14, 2011 6:04 PM

I also take aim with this continued application of "transgender woman" to Chrissy Polis and others with similar circumstances. According to the police report she was female. In the eyes of the law her sex was not questioned or scrutinized. She was legally female and that's how the law treated her. I am sick and tired of the way the media continually slaps the transgender label on people against their will. A person who transitions from one sex to the other is not permanently transgender unless they choose to identify that way. Why do you think people go to great lenghts to legally change the sex on their driver's licenses, passports, and birth certificates? To be legally recognized for the sex they transitioned to, not to be permanently othered or treated as a third sex, or continually compared to their birth assigned sex. I'm sick of it. Chrissy Polis is a woman, a member of the female sex. Her pre-transition life is irrelevant. She is not transgender. If you disagree, then I would like to see proof somewhere where Ms. Polis called herself transgender.

As to the sentence, I believe in being tough on crime. 5 years normally would be fine if it were 5 years of hard labor and intensive rehabilitation. I don't believe putting someone in a room with cable TV and other luxuries to be sufficient punishment or rehabilitation. This country needs to stop tolerating these violent delinquents.

How exactly are we supposed to ever talk about stories of relevance to trans people if we cannot talk about trans people? Without knowing she was trans, would you even know who Chrissy Lee IS? I sure wouldn't have. Without being able to speak of other trans people, we will be more and more isolated and miserable, and unable to stand against attacks and bigotry like this. If you want to go 100% stealth and never acknowledge your "history", then fine, go for it, but don't try to deny the rest of us the right to recognize each other.

Furthermore, Bil did not out her as a trans woman; the transphobic scumbag who taped the attack did. His name's Vernon Hackett, if you want someone to blame, blame HIM.

Hi Chitown Kev,

I don't know if you're posing your question to me or not. The idea of filing suit against Brown seems kind of ridiculous to me, if you wanted to know my opinion. If she's hanging around McDonald's and getting herself into fights I doubt she has any assets to go after. She'll likely be indigent when she gets out of prison.

I have to admit I reacted without considering the trauma Christy has experienced.

What happened at that McDonald's was nasty and ugly. Christy should be able to get the counseling and healthcare she needs. She still has to go back to that neighborhood, I would guess. I don't know about justice. What do I know, especially about this situation?

I have a few more thoughts on this situation. I don't know how well I can articulate them without dwelling on this for longer than I have time to at the moment. There is a limited window for discussion of this situation before it disappears into oblivion in the archives.

This was such a complex incident. I don't see why this has to be presented in any other way than a woman, or women, who beat up another woman. That's the way it's presented in this news story :

They get through the whole story and are able to describe the horror without mentioning that Christy is anyone or anything but Christy until you get to the caption underneath her video which needlessly describes her a "transgender woman" and further down, in the comments there is the jerk who says "BTW, that's a man".

In Christy's own words, she's "really appalled all her charges have been in all over the internet" . . . that has nothin' to do with what my fight was caused" . . ."They're just puttin' my information out there . . . they put my whole government out there and I just felt it was wrong. It was really wrong" . . . "Really, to tell you the truth, it just seemed to me they would have picked a fight that night and to find out that girl was just fourteen years old . . ."

I am wondering about how the hate crime angle was pursued in this case. I think that is a very important question to be asking, in light of the complexities of the situation. Was Vernon Hackett charged with anything? Was he the person who yelled out "that's a 'man'"? Did whoever yell that remark out exacerbate a situation that might have simply begun as a scuffle over someone's boyfriend and provide a false sense of justification to intensify the beating?

I think the reporting of this incident is a very good example of how GLAAD fails not only post transsexual people but anyone living their lives as women or men, for that matter. I really believe that when a woman or man is described in the media the details no one really needs to know shouldn't be mentioned, at all. If those details somehow relate to a story in a significant way, I think those details should be mentioned as an aside, judiciously.

I think if GLAAD really wanted to help people who lead lives that are transgender and people who have transsexual medical histories, they should be insisting to the media outlets they are dealing with that privacy is a prime concern. I think people who have undergone transsexual medical care have significant differences compared to those who don't. To dismiss those differences as insignificant is loaded with implications for people who have undergone transsexual medical procedures. It is a lack of respect for the person who has, in ways too numerous to count here. As far as the charges of elitism are concerned involving those who have undergone SRS this incident proves just how off base those charges can be. I certainly do not feel elite right now.

Ha, the Christy Lee Polis has disappeared into oblivion. I think on should listen, once again, what she has to say in her own words in the video interview she gave last spring when this whole thing occurred. There is a lot that she has to say about what happened that conflicts with the outcome of the trial of the person who was accused of a hate crime. Really, was justice server??? .

I live in the Metro DC area, and while I'm not a resident of Maryland, I know many of the people involved in this incident, but not Chrissy. I was put into a Facebook group, I think it was the day before Easter, the group which ended up organizing the rally in front of the McDonalds.

One of the founders of the Transexual Menace posted a comment to the group early on saying that this was a "godsend for P/A rights," which bothered me. Bothered me so much that screenshotted it and wrote about it elsewhere. I was attacked by quite a few people for reposting her comment to the group.

Chrissy attended the rally and I don't purport to speak for her. She may well have appreciated all that transpired afterwards. I don't know if she ended up having a hand in the rally and its' demeanor. I do know that no one consulted her initially, in that day when the Facebook comments to organize!! were flying fast and furious.

But, had I been in her shoes at the time, at the very least, I would not have appreciated the sentiment expressed in the comment. I doubt I would have viewed the incident as a "godsend," as the commenter did.