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Teonna Monae Brown
18-year-old charged in McDonald's beating

in UNITED STATES, 28/04/2011

Baltimore County police have named the 18-year-old charged with beating a transgender woman at Rosedale McDonald's, amid demands from some community members that the incident be investigated as a hate crime. As charges formally filed vs. teen, transgender community plans rally at restaurant.

Teonna Monae Brown of the 2000 block of Kelbourne Road in Rosedale was charged in the attack on Chrissy Lee Polis. The incident was videotaped and went viral online late last week, with hundreds of thousands of views on various websites. The video shows Polis, 22, being kicked and punched in the head by two people until she appears to have a seizure. While one employee and a patron try to intervene, others can be seen standing and watching, and some are laughing.

Brown, who was arrested Friday, has been charged with one count of first-degree assault and two counts of second-degree assault. She remains at the Baltimore County Detention Center on $150,000 bond.

A 14-year-old girl has also been charged in the attack, but her name has not been released because the charges were filed in juvenile court.

Scott Shellenberger, the state's attorney for Baltimore County, has said his office plans to gather additional evidence to determine whether the April 18 attack on Polis can be prosecuted as a hate crime.

Another woman filed assault charges against Brown in July, which prosecutors dropped three months later.

Sandy Rawls, founding director of Trans-United, a Baltimore-based group that fights discrimination against transgender people, said people hate what they do not understand.

"When people see us, they don't understand us. So it's an educational problem," said Rawls, a transsexual woman who lives about a mile from the McDonald's. She also blamed "a violent culture."

"'Love thy neighbor' is fading," she said.

Rawls is helping to organize a rally for 7 p.m. Monday at the McDonald's in Rosedale, to raise awareness of hate crimes against the transgendered.

Andrew I. Alperstein, a defense attorney and a former Baltimore County prosecutor, said it is possible to add hate crime accusations after the initial charges are filed. He said the 14-year-old girl could be charged as an adult, but the state's attorney's office must see whether she has a previous record and evaluate her role in the attack, adding that "it was a horrible assault."

"A picture is worth a thousand words," he said.

McDonald's issued a statement condemning the beating, and the owner of the Rosedale restaurant announced Saturday afternoon that the employee who taped the beating had been fired.

While Alperstein said the employee who taped the incident faces little liability for not stopping the fight, he could be held criminally liable if found to have encouraged the fight.

Alperstein predicted that McDonald's would likely face a civil lawsuit because it has a duty to protect its customers.

By Sunday evening, a Facebook page titled "Chrissy Lee Polis" with a picture of the McDonald's arches had more than 800 people who "liked" the page. Many of the posters on the page pledged their support and provided words of comfort, and several identified themselves as transgender.

One poster, Robyn Webb, has a teleconferencing company, TG Works, that is collecting funds to help pay for Polis' medical bills and help her relocate. Polis, who has not had a job or a stable place to stay for the past two years, has said she has been living with friends in the area.

Webb thought the incident should be prosecuted as a hate crime.

The police report does not provide a motive, but it quotes one of the suspects saying that the fight was "over using a bathroom." In the report, officers said the teens accused Polis of going into the wrong one.

Many transgender individuals face public accommodation issues, Webb said.

Donna Plamondon, who is transgender, plans to attend the rally for Polis. "It does my heart good to see the outpouring of support" for the community, she said.

She too called the incident an apparent hate crime.

"People are waking up that this is what life is like for a transgender," she said. "Why would you choose to put yourself in this position every day?"
 

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