After a teenage girl was sentenced Tuesday to five years in prison for beating a transgender woman at a McDonald's in Rosedale, some advocates for transgender people called the sentence 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. "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."
Del. Joseline Pena-Melnyk agreed. "Five years is not enough for what she did. It was really horrible — nobody should do something like that to another human being," said Pena-Melnyk, who represents parts of Anne Arundel and Prince George's counties. She proposed legislation to prevent employers, creditors and others from discriminating against transgender people, but the measure failed in the 2011 General Assembly.
Teonna Monae Brown, 19, pleaded guilty last month to first-degree assault and a hate crime in the beating of Chrissy Lee Polis, 22. The April attack drew national attention after a video went viral online, and it became a rallying point for transgender-rights advocates.
Brown, who tearfully apologized in court Tuesday, was sentenced to 10 years in prison, with five years suspended, plus three years of supervised probation, as prosecutors sought. The maximum sentence for the crimes is 35 years.
Vincent Paolo Villano, a spokesman for the National Center for Transgender Equality, said the group's focus is not Brown's sentence, but the hope that "people use this as an opportunity to educate other people." The point, he said, is that "everyone is treated fairly and equally."
Baltimore County Circuit Judge John Grason Turnbull II called Brown's attack on Polis "absolutely outrageous behavior" and said the prosecutors' sentencing recommendation was "more than reasonable."
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