Hate crime charges in Md. McDonald's beating

May 16, 2011 - 5:45 PM

BALTIMORE (AP) — Two teens are facing hate crime charges in the beating of a transgender woman at a McDonald's, an attack that was caught on video and posted online.

Teonna Brown, 18, was indicted Monday on assault and hate crime charges in the attack on Chrissy Lee Polis at the restaurant last month. She is also charged with assaulting a customer and a McDonald's employee who tried to intervene. A 14-year-old girl is facing the same charges in juvenile court. The Associated Press typically does not identify juveniles charged with crimes.

Both teenagers are being held, prosecutors said no one else would be charged.

Brown was defending herself and maintains her innocence, according to attorney Timothy P. Knepp. He declined to go into further detail.

"She's a very nice young lady who lives with her mom and is not the person the press has made her out to be," Knepp said.

A videotape of the April 18 beating showed a woman being attacked repeatedly while an employee and customer try to stop them, and the woman apparently having a seizure.

Polis, 22, could not be reached for comment Monday, but she told The Baltimore Sun after the video of the attack went viral that she was the victim of a hate crime and had been afraid to go outside ever since the attack.

"They said, 'That's a dude, that's a dude and she's in the female bathroom,'" Polis told the newspaper.

Polis said she was confronted by a girl who spat in her face and accused Polis of talking to "my man." Polis said another girl then also spat on her face, and that they then beat and kicked her, pulled her by the hair and tore off her earrings.

"We hope that Chrissy gets justice and that these young ladies get justice as well. Everyone is hurting in this situation," said Sandy Rawls of Trans-United. But anger management and counseling might be needed more than just jail time, Rawls said.

People who watched the video may feel that the attack was clearly a hate crime, but it is important for the evidence to be there for the charges, said National Center for Transgender Equality board member Dana Beyer, who has been working with Polis since incident.

"If there is no hate crime enhancement, the public can get very upset. Our position is that it doesn't benefit anyone to have the law applied indiscriminately," Beyer said. "It cheapens it. It's always a difficult call."