By Winston Gieseke
Originally published on Advocate.com September 14 2011 2:25 PM ET
Teonna Brown, 19, who last month pleaded guilty to first-degree assault and a hate crime in the beating of a transgender woman inside a Maryland McDonald’s restaurant, was sentenced Tuesday to 10 years in prison with five years suspended, plus three years of supervised probation.
The maximum sentence for the crimes is 35 years.
Brown’s attorney, Timothy Knepp, called the sentence the "the harshest penalty I have ever seen handed down to an 18-year-old first-time offender in a case of assault,” adding that the case was "a tragic set of circumstances that was really overblown by the state's attorney's office."
Prior to the sentencing, Brown tearfully appealed to the court, asking for a second chance. "My mother didn't raise me like this," she said. "I would really like to apologize to the victim."
While the victim, 22-year-old Chrissy Polis, was said to be too upset to attend the sentencing, she submitted a written statement in which she said she did not forgive Brown and her 14-year-old companion for the treatment they gave her, which included spitting, kicking, hair pulling, and name calling.
"While being beaten, I felt like I was going to die that day," wrote Polis, adding that the attack caused her one-year-dormant epileptic seizures to begin again.
Some advocates for transgender people spoke out about the sentence, calling it too lenient. "The whole incident is unfortunate and demonstrates the lack of knowledge and understanding, and discrimination against transgender people," said Patrick Wojahn, board president of the Equality Maryland Foundation, quoted by The Baltimore Sun. "If anything, five years may have been too short of an amount of time for the attack and the amount of hatred that was shown in the incident."
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