CeCe McDonald murder trial

Behind the scenes of the transgender woman's case

"Black lady with a knife."

When the first 911 call came in, that's all police had to go on, because that's all Gary Gilbert could see by the dim light outside the Schooner Tavern, where he worked security.

Meanwhile, Dean Schmitz was bleeding out on the sidewalk in front of the bar. It didn't look good.

Dean Schmitz died outside the Schooner Tavern from a stab wound to the heart
courtesy of Charles Pelfrey
Dean Schmitz died outside the Schooner Tavern from a stab wound to the heart
Chrishaun McDonald, a transgender woman, was studying fashion at MCTC before being charged with murder
Chrishaun McDonald, a transgender woman, was studying fashion at MCTC before being charged with murder
McDonald was hit in the face with a beer glass the night of the incident
courtesy of Support CeCe! and Chrishaun McDonald
McDonald was hit in the face with a beer glass the night of the incident
The paths of Chrishaun McDonald and Dean Schmitz crossed outside the Schooner Tavern, and all hell broke loose
photo by City Pages
The paths of Chrishaun McDonald and Dean Schmitz crossed outside the Schooner Tavern, and all hell broke loose
McDonald's support group held rallies leading up to her trial, calling the court system discriminatory toward transgender people
Jayme Halbritter
McDonald's support group held rallies leading up to her trial, calling the court system discriminatory toward transgender people

"Send an ambulance right now," Gilbert said into the phone. "We need one."

The operator wanted a description of the perpetrator, so Gilbert followed the suspect as she fled from the bar. There wasn't much more to report: Shorts. A weave. Maybe about 5'7", 5'8". She appeared to be heading toward Target.

Back at the bar, Anthony Stoneburg, who was in the neighborhood to visit his aunt, had the horror of stumbling upon the grotesque scene. There was a three-quarter-inch long puncture wound in Schmitz's chest. It ripped more than three inches into his body cavity, all the way to the right ventricle of his heart. His white button-down shirt was slowly staining red from the geyser of blood. He was barely breathing.

"Baby, don't die!" cried Molly Flaherty, a woman sitting on the ground next to him.

Stoneburg climbed onto Schmitz and tried to plug the wound, but was too late. Schmitz — a father and, that summer night, a patron at the Schooner Tavern — died in the ambulance.

Despite having little to go on, Minneapolis police officers managed to find the suspect in the parking lot of Cub Foods across Minnehaha Avenue from the Schooner. She was not hard to spot; upon seeing the squad car, she flagged the officers down.

She was hardly the portrait of a cold-blooded killer: A 23-year-old transgender woman studying fashion at Minneapolis Community and Technical College, she had no previous history of violent crime.

Nothing about this case would turn out to be ordinary.

In the 11 months following Schmitz's death, the story of how it happened has been told over and over. It has been told to police, attorneys, journalists, politicians, and protestors. In its many retellings, the general details remain mostly the same, but debate centers on who is the protagonist, and who is the villain.

After police arrested her outside of Cub Foods, the Hennepin County Attorney's Office charged Chrishaun "CeCe" McDonald with two counts of second-degree murder, which could carry a sentence of 25 years in prison.

Her supporters, however, say she was the victim of a brutal attack and should never have been charged with a crime. They talk about her as a folk hero of sorts, a transgender Matthew Shepard.

"This could have been any of us," says Billy Navaro, a transgender man and co-founder of Support CeCe, an advocacy group for McDonald. "She wasn't asking for any trouble whatsoever. She was going to the grocery store with her family."

City Councilman Cam Gordon publicly announced his support for McDonald, calling the incident "another example [of] transgender women of color being targeted for hate- and bias-related violence."

National transgender celebrities, including author and activist Leslie Fineberg, traveled to Minneapolis to visit McDonald in jail and attend her court appearances. Supporters held rallies and dance parties outside the Hennepin County jail in her honor.

But Hennepin County Attorney Michael Freeman doesn't see her as a hero. He argues that McDonald is guilty of committing murder, and that the issue has been unfairly politicized. The fact that she happens to be transgender, Freeman says, is inconsequential.

"We see all kinds of crime by all sorts of people against all sorts of other people," says Freeman. "We try to review it as racially blind, as sexual-orientation blind, as economically blind as we can be. The scales of justice have got a blindfold on them for a reason, and we try to follow that."

What caused the tragedy outside the Schooner Tavern that night may have been bad timing more than anything else. It was the chance meeting of two people who couldn't have been more different. Together, they were primed to explode.

On the night of June 5, 2011, Latavia Taylor was happy. She had recently moved into a new apartment off East Lake Street, a brick building on a quaint, green corner of Minneapolis, right across from the Church of St. Albert the Great. McDonald was her roommate, and a friend so close, they referred to each other as cousins.

"If I am hungry, she will bring something to eat," Taylor says of McDonald. "If I don't have no clothes, no shoes, she will buy it."

Three of their friends came over: Larry Tyaries Thomas ("Ty"), Zavawn Smith ("Zay"), and Roneal Harris. Early in the evening, they barbecued in the yard of the apartment complex, then spent a quiet night lounging around.

"We was all chillin', drinking, smoking," says Thomas.

Around 11:30 p.m., Taylor suggested they walk to Cub Foods to pick up some groceries. The store was little more than a half-mile from the apartment: a right out the door, a quick left on 29th Street, and another right along Minnehaha Avenue, which would bring them to the shared parking lot of Cub and Target.

As they walked from the apartment, laughing and trading jokes, a squad car pulled up and shined a spotlight on them. "What are you doing out here?" the officer asked.

"What you mean what are you doing out?" replied Thomas. "We're just going to get something to eat."

The officer cruised behind them for a few minutes, then peeled away. If he would have followed them another couple of blocks, the group of friends might have made it to Cub safely. But that didn't happen.

Moments later, as they neared the intersection of 29th Street East and 27th Avenue South, they heard catcalls from across the street, outside the north entrance to a three-story red brick building on the corner. Above the building, a sign read, "SCHOONER."

Standing on the corner was Schmitz, a man who looked to be in his mid-40s, with a heavy build, mustache, and sandy blond hair. Flaherty, his ex-girlfriend, stood next to him, along with Jenny Thoreson, his current girlfriend. The three had stepped out of the bar for a cigarette. That's when they saw McDonald and her friends walking by.

What Schmitz and company called out, exactly, is subject to debate. In later interviews with police, Thoreson would only recall that it was something "derogatory" and "sarcastic."

"They were very feminine guys," she said, "something about their walk."

Flaherty's memory was even less specific, though she gave a similar description to police about the group's fashion, noting that one of them "was wearing booty shorts and a tank top," and that "he looked like he was ready to go to a recital."

Thomas's recollection of what he heard that night was far more detailed:

"Oh you faggots, you nigger lovers, and whoop-de-woo, you ain't nothing but a bunch of nigger babies," Thomas later recalled in a police interview. "So as they said all that, I go over there and talk to [Schmitz].

"I backed into the middle of the street, drop my belt like I am ready to fight. He just walk off. And that's when he started talking this stuff, like, 'Oh, look at the tranny over there, look at that tranny.'"

The back-and-forth escalated, and someone smashed a glass across McDonald's face, opening a gash in her left cheek.

"I'll take all three of you bitches on!" Flaherty screamed, according to Thoreson. "She threw the first punch and I heard glass break. It was on."

From there, everyone remembers the brawl a little differently. David Crandell, Flaherty's boyfriend, stepped out of the bar for a cigarette to find multiple members of McDonald's group piled onto his girlfriend, punching, kicking, and beating her with belts, he told police. He wrestled with a few of the strangers, trying to pull them off Flaherty.

Gary Gilbert walked out of the bar to make a phone call and heard the sound of glass breaking on the street, he told police. He saw Schmitz, whom he recognized from the bar, pushing McDonald off the hog pile on Flaherty.

"He was just trying to shove her away," Gilbert recalled.

Schmitz and McDonald moved into the street, away from the rest of the group. McDonald appeared to be holding a blade, while Schmitz clenched his fists and approached her.

"He is just like shuffling his feet like, you know, something like you would do in boxing," Gilbert said.

"You gonna stab me, you bitch?" Schmitz asked McDonald, according to Gilbert.

The next thing Gilbert knew, Schmitz was hunched over.

"You stabbed me!" he accused McDonald.

"Yes, I did," McDonald replied.

After everyone saw Schmitz bleeding, the fighting abruptly stopped. A few members of McDonald's group fled the scene and boarded a Metro Transit bus, while McDonald and Thomas ran toward Cub Foods.

"That night, it was crazy," says Thomas. "It messed me all up. I'm still messed up from that night."

Just south of downtown Minneapolis, in the law offices of the Legal Rights Center, Hersch Izek sits across a desk cluttered with mislaid files and cassette tapes. A goateed man with graying hair, he keeps a suit coat hanging on the door, but in the office prefers a red flannel shirt and jeans. On the walls behind him, next to his William Mitchell law degrees, hang posters of Bob Marley and Noam Chomsky.

McDonald's case found its way to the Legal Rights Center within the first weeks after her arrest. Founded in 1970, the law office predates Hennepin County's modern-day public defender system, and still serves as an alternative form of free legal counsel for low-income clients. It has been a starting point for future judges and politicians, including Chief U.S. District Judge Michael Davis and Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison. But unlike public defenders, the Legal Rights Center attorneys have complete discretion over cases, rather than being assigned clients through a judge.

Every Wednesday, attorneys, staff members, and volunteers meet in the center's conference room and run down a list of potential cases. They span the gamut of misdemeanors and mostly low-level felonies — DUI, domestic assault, theft — and the office sees its share of troubling cases. One client was charged with theft of infant milk; another stands accused of beating her child with an extension cord.

"We have this sort of intuitively unusual purpose, in the sense that our mission of the organization is to better serve the community, just like any other nonprofit," says Michael Friedman, executive director of the Legal Rights Center. "But at the same time, we're often working on behalf of people who have harmed the community."

In addition to legal representation, the law office's role is to find help for its clients, and staff members are more likely to choose cases on the faith that the defendant could still be turned onto the right path.

"When we're in court, we're 100 percent vigilantly behind that client, representing their interest," says Friedman. "But behind our own closed doors, if someone has done something that's wrong, our advocates are trying to help them."

Murder cases are extremely rare for the law office. When one does come to the table, everyone on staff has to agree to accept it, or the center won't take it. As a testament to how infrequently this happens, Izek had never gone to trial for a murder case before McDonald.

Izek doesn't deny that McDonald stabbed Schmitz in the heart that night outside the Schooner, nor does he debate that the stab wound killed Schmitz. But Izek contends his client isn't to blame for the 47-year-old's untimely death.

"She acted in self-defense," says Izek. "She stabbed him, but her actions were reasonable when confronted with the reasonable possibility of bodily harm or death to herself. That's what the jury instruction calls for in this kind of case."

He pulls up the transcript of the police interview with Gilbert, who will be the prosecution's key witness in the trial, and reads the excerpt aloud about Schmitz "shuffling his feet" like a boxer while he approached McDonald that night.

"I could see why you might want to take that as an aggressive kind of move on his part," says Izek, slapping the transcript.

McDonald was also bleeding profusely from the wound in her face from the shattered glass, and had every reason to believe she was in danger, Izek argues.

"I think it undercuts any kind of intentional action on her part."

After Schmitz pulled McDonald out of the brawl that night, she brandished the scissors to scare him off, says Izek. Then he attacked her, inadvertently jamming the scissors into his own chest.

Three weeks before the trial, the team working on McDonald's defense meets in a small conference room to bring everyone up to speed, including a few law students who have volunteered to help with the legwork. There's some information about Schmitz that the attorneys want the jury to hear, but they anticipate a fight from the prosecutors.

There is the matter of Schmitz's criminal history, which is extensive, and perhaps the reason he chose the word "Outlaw" to be tattooed across his back. Since turning 18, Schmitz has faced more than two dozen criminal cases, including felonies for theft, burglary, and attempted sale of a controlled substance.

But the defense is mostly interested in Schmitz's history of violence: He has been convicted of fifth-degree assault and domestic assault. Some of the incidents occurred so long ago, the court records have been destroyed.

"I've never had this situation, Hersch, how do you bring in a dead person's record?" asks Richard LeRoy, a senior attorney at the law office.

"I'm not worried about it," replies Hersch, stoically. "We'll get it in."

Another piece of evidence is an analysis of Schmitz's toxicology results by Dr. Leo J. Siroris, a University of Minnesota professor. A number of chemicals were present in Schmitz's system at the time of his death, including methamphetamine, opiates, and Benzoylecgognine, a metabolite of cocaine.

The levels of combined methamphetamine and Benzoylecgognine are of most concern, notes Siroris. "Sudden, unpredictable, and unwarranted violence can occur and is common," he says.

But the evidence that initiates the most discussion is found in the photos of Schmitz's autopsy. On his chest, only inches away from the stab wound, is a four-inch tattoo of a swastika.

"He honest to God has a swastika tattooed on his chest," says Willa Gelvick, a volunteer attorney helping with the case, to those hearing it for the first time.

"It goes into his speech, what he said," offers Izek.

"Do you need someone to come in and educate the jury on what the swastika means?" asks LeRoy.

"I think it's general knowledge," interjects Gelvick.

In the end, they submit the swastika tattoo as evidence by arguing it's relevant to Schmitz's intent. Though McDonald may not have seen it that night, the swastika is a well known symbol of "hatred and violence" toward black people, writes Gelvick in the motion to the judge.

For Hennepin County Attorney Michael Freeman, the case against McDonald is a much simpler affair.

"She took a person's life," says Freeman, sitting in his office 20 stories above downtown Minneapolis. "Any civilization puts a penalty on taking the life of other individuals. The exceptions would be war time or self-defense. This was not self-defense. She deserves to do some time in prison."

Freeman's office filed charges against McDonald within days of the stabbing. Before doing so, prosecutors diligently reviewed the evidence, which included a taped confession from McDonald.

Rather than accidentally stabbing Schmitz, Freeman claims that McDonald stepped forward and stuck Schmitz with the blade. Though the murder weapon was never found, it is believed to be scissors.

Freeman pulls a long, metal, black-handled pair from his desk to illustrate.

"The description of it was very forceful, because you've got to go through some stuff there," says Freeman, tapping on his own breastbone.

There's no evidence to suggest Schmitz posed a threat to McDonald's life, says Freeman. It was someone else who had smashed a glass on McDonald's face, and if McDonald did believe she was in danger, she had every opportunity to run away.

"You have a duty, when you're not in your home, to flee if possible," Freeman says. "The evidence here does not reflect self-defense. She stepped forward to thrust a weapon into a person that had not assaulted her. That, to me, just doesn't fit."

Freeman also points out that McDonald's story has changed since the incident. Though she admitted to stabbing Schmitz that night to police, she later wrote a letter to the Star Tribune claiming someone else had done it and that she only told the officers what they wanted to hear.

When the Star Tribune printed excerpts from McDonald's correspondence, prosecutors officially requested the letter in its entirety. After a court battle with the newspaper, Freeman's office was eventually able to get a copy to be used as evidence.

"Ms. McDonald has now shared several different stories about what she believes happened," says Freeman. "We don't know what she's going to say, frankly."

Asked about Schmitz's swastika tattoo, Freeman is quick to dismiss it as irrelevant.

"She couldn't see it, nor could anyone else," Freeman says. "It adds a little bit of sensationalism to the case, obviously."

(Schmitz's brother, Charles Pelfrey, says Schmitz was not a racist, and that one of his best friends was black. "When Dean was younger, he had a stay in St. Cloud [prison]," says Pelfrey. "He happened to fall into a certain group, that ended up being white supremacist people, in order to survive. You know, you gotta pick a group.")

All that matters, Freeman argues, is what happened in the short time the two strangers crossed paths outside the Schooner Tavern that night.

"What were his actions just prior to her taking the affirmative step of thrusting a sharp object in his chest with sufficient force to kill him?" asks Freeman. "There is no evidence that I'm aware of that he had any weapon in his hand, or that he had done anything to McDonald, other than to be part of this group, where there were shouts from virtually everyone around."

Deep in the bowels of the Government Center, in an underground room that smells of stale coffee, 11 members of McDonald's support group stare across a conference table at two employees from the Hennepin County Attorney's Office. The room is silent, and everyone seems to be asking the same unspoken question: What the hell are we doing here?

After months of requests, Freeman has agreed to take a meeting with McDonald's supporters. Though no one on McDonald's side knows why — especially now, just six days before the trial — they decide that it must be a "sign of weakness," and have every intention of using it to their best advantage.

The plan has already been agreed upon: They will first let Freeman explain himself, then they will each say their piece, and storm out of the room without allowing for a chance to respond.

Freeman walks into the room wearing a black suit. He introduces himself to everyone individually, but none accept his offer of a handshake. He takes a seat at the far end of the table.

"Thank you for meeting with me," Freeman begins. He's been receiving petitions from people from all over the world protesting McDonald's imprisonment. "I'm here to get more community input. I'm here to do more than talk."

What happened outside the Schooner Tavern was "tragic," Freeman says, both for Schmitz and McDonald, who still bears the scar on her face. He has referred the case against the person who hit McDonald with the glass to the Washington County Attorney's Office for charges, in order to avoid a conflict of interest.

Freeman's office has worked with the Twin Cities LGBT community in the past, he notes. Just last year, he earned a conviction against the man who murdered Chrissie Bates, a transgender woman.

"We are not perfect," he says. "We make mistakes. And I just want to tell you I personally reviewed all the documents in this case, which I only do for a few every year." The case will go to trial Monday, he says, and "we'll accept the jury's decision."

The other side of the room sits silent. Finally someone fires back: "We're here to ask you again to drop the charges, and we're wondering when we can take CeCe home!"

"We're not going to drop the charges," replies Freeman. "You haven't seen all the evidence we have."

"We've seen this heightened violence," says Katie Burgess, director of the Trans Youth Support Network. "I think that's the evidence you haven't considered."

"CeCe's crime is surviving a vicious attack!" a support group member shouts.

"Why are you taking all your evidence from racist white people?" demands another.

"We took evidence from everyone," retorts Freeman.

"How easy do you think it is for a colored trans woman to walk up to a police officer?"

The accusations continue, and Freeman maintains a practiced calm. The support committee sees its cue, stands up, and storms out of the room.

The next day, there is an air of suspense at the Legal Rights Center's weekly meeting, where Izek and LeRoy are noticeably absent. Judge Daniel Moreno has proposed a plea deal. The prosecutors haven't agreed yet, but they're willing to take it upstairs if McDonald accepts.

Instead of two counts of second-degree murder, McDonald would plead guilty to second-degree manslaughter. She could be sentenced to as few as 48 months, and admit only to criminal negligence, instead of murder. With good behavior, McDonald could get parole in two years.

It's a good deal, and McDonald's attorneys know it. Now, they just need to convince their client.

Thirty minutes into the meeting, LeRoy walks into the room after meeting with McDonald in jail, his tie askew. He collapses into a chair, and leans in toward Friedman.

"Going to trial," he whispers.

Friedman smiles. "Okay."

"She's talking about bringing in national figures," LeRoy says. "That makes me worry for her that she's doing it for the wrong reasons, but it's her choice."

He leans back in his chair. "It's quite the risk."

Friedman announces the news to the room, and the meeting breaks. Now that the trial is only days away, there is plenty to discuss. The judge hasn't ruled on any motions, but gave some indication on what's going to make it in and what's not. He will likely accept the toxicology expert, but the swastika isn't looking likely. On the bright side, that might be grounds for a later appeal.

LeRoy, who specializes in worst-case scenarios, is playing devil's advocate. He's afraid McDonald might become antagonized and flash anger on the stand, "and the jury will say, 'Oh, there it is.'"

"I give her a 50-50 chance," says LeRoy.

On the first day of pretrial hearings, McDonald's supporters flock to the courthouse in droves. Fewer than half can fit inside the courtroom, so the rest sit outside, trying to catch a glimpse of the proceedings through the crack between the doors.

Before jury selection can begin, the judge must first rule on motions from both sides. As expected, the prosecution disputes the admittance of the swastika tattoo, arguing it is not relevant and unfairly prejudicial, given no one knew about it until the autopsy.

Izek contests the prosecutor's claims, arguing that the tattoo communicates Schmitz's feelings toward people who are different than himself. "And CeCe McDonald is about as different from Dean Schmitz than anyone."

The courtroom audience snickers.

"It wasn't communicated," retorts prosecutor Amy Sweasy, "just like something under Mr. Schmitz's bed wasn't communicated."

Judge Daniel Moreno says he will weigh the arguments and rule on the tattoo later. Throughout the morning, the hearing continues. The defense's toxicology expert can testify, but only to the effects of the drugs in general, rather than how they influenced Schmitz's behavior that night. Schmitz's criminal history is not allowed.

The prosecution's request to admit McDonald's statements on blogs and Facebook is permitted, as is a motion to impeach McDonald's testimony based on a previous conviction for writing a bad check, because it speaks to her believability.

The judge also makes a ruling on appropriate clothing to be worn during the trial, prohibiting the audience from wearing any garments or accessories displaying support for McDonald.

Moreno ultimately decides that the swastika tattoo will not be admitted, ruling that it does not speak to Schmitz's intent, as the defense had argued.

"The tattoo itself is not evidence that [Schmitz] subscribed to any belief," writes Moreno in his order. "Specifically, evidence of the tattoo does not establish that [Schmitz] intended to threaten, fight, or kill anyone."

If two jurors hadn't been running late on the morning of May 2, the murder trial of Chrishaun McDonald might have ended differently. But while they waited, Judge Moreno sent the other potential jurors out for coffee, and used the spare time to meet with the lawyers once more in his chambers.

Had Izek and LeRoy talked to their client any more about a settlement? The judge wanted an answer before noon.

The two lawyers met with McDonald in a holding room that morning, and presented the judge's question.

"At this point, we just wanted to see if it was even a possibility," says Izek.

But McDonald was still hesitant. She sat silently for a moment, then conceded only that she would consider it.

Izek and LeRoy brought her answer back to the judge's chambers to talk specifics with the prosecution.

We can do 48, offered Sweasy.

"We said forget it," recalls LeRoy. "It's gotta be better than 48, because that's an absolute no."

The defense countered with an offer of 36 months, but it was too low for the prosecution to consider.

The judge produced the book on sentencing guidelines and flipped to the minimum punishment for second-degree manslaughter: 41 months. It was a good enough compromise for both sides to agree. Now, the defense just had to convince McDonald.

For the second time that day, Izek and LeRoy met with their client to talk deals, this time in the empty courtroom. The offer was generous. Factoring in time already served and good behavior, McDonald could be free in a year and a half. But in taking it, McDonald would have to throw out her legal claim of self-defense and confess that she created an unreasonable risk of injury or death by pointing the scissors toward Schmitz, who was unarmed.

She sat quietly, contemplating.

"Should we go back to the judge and tell him it's okay?" Izek asked.

"Yes," McDonald finally uttered.

That morning, with tears streaming down her face, she took the witness stand and put the confession on the record.

Five days after taking the plea deal, McDonald calls from the Hennepin County jail.

By the time she is formally sentenced on June 4, it will have been one day short of a full year since Dean Schmitz's life ended. Even with all the time that has gone by, she says it's still difficult to accept that it all really happened.

"You see it in the movies," she explains. "You never think it's going to be part of your life.... People think it doesn't bother me, but it does."

That night was not her first experience with being confronted because of her lifestyle. Originally from south Chicago, she says that slurs have always been an unfortunate part of her life. "It actually started in my own household."

She learned to cope with these slights long ago. She came to think of herself as a "peace keeper," someone to diffuse a potentially explosive situation before it gets out of control.

But something about that night outside the Schooner Tavern was different. It just hurt more.

"It was an overwhelming feeling," she says. "Someone was trying to take everything from me."

Asked why she accepted the plea deal, McDonald says it was for her loved ones. Instead of risking decades in prison, she will be out in a fraction of the time and be able to pick up where she left off.

"I thought it was the logical thing," she says. "I thought it would hurt my family if I had to do 20 years."

But the sentence won't be a cakewalk, and her fate has yet to be fully decided. Her attorneys believe that if she can complete the physical transformation and be legally deemed a woman, she may be able to get into a female prison. They fear for the safety of a young, black, transgender inmate in a male prison.

Asked about her sentencing, McDonald seems resigned.

"I'd rather do it and just have it be over with," she says. "I've faced worse things in my life than prison."

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You people do not know Molly Flaherty ~ hated by many.  Terrible person.  Had two kids with FAS and just had another one with FAS.  She is a meth head and a trouble maker.  When we all heard it was "Molly" AKA the "Black Widow" who started this fight   ~ we knew who was at fault.  Look up her record...... shame to society.   


Guilty! Hang the Bastard! Look at the crime, not the sideshow distractions!


Numol = DOUCHEBAGHang the GUILTY now!


wow jack your arguments are so persuasive and well-reasoned [/sarcasm]


@Jack: well aren't you a disgusting violent bigoted troll piece of shit.

So Mpls Resident
So Mpls Resident like.author.displayName 1 Like

This whole story is a disturbing glimpse of life at the lower depths. It seems McDonald's attorneys did a very good job on her case. From the story, and other accounts I've read, she stood an equal chance of being acquitted and being sentenced to the maximum possible sentence. As an attorney, you can't let your client take that chance unless you absolutely have to.

And McDonald is a difficult client to defend. She's clearly not in full control of herself. Speaking to the media in any way was incredibly stupid. Her attorneys no doubt dreaded putting her on the stand to be picked apart and provoked into quite possible bizarre outbursts by a prosecutor well-trained in the arts of convicting someone with little evidence.

In the end, it appears that it all worked out about as well as it could, except that McDonald's and Schmidt's "companions" should be on trial for the death in this situation as well.

Oddly enough, I've gone out for a night's drinking in South Minneapolis--including even that very Schooner Bar--without shouting derogatory comments at passers-by, or smashing anyone in the face with a busted-off glass. Maybe I'm just a superior citizen.

Also, while walking along minding my own business, I've been shouted at by drunken derelicts calling me offensive names. I've just walked on by; particularly when I had the whole width of a street between me and them. I certainly have never crossed a street to confront a group of drunken, angry red-necks looking for a fight.

It seems like a situation where some crazy people ran into some violent bigots, and violence and a death ensued. It is a crime to kill a bigot, just as it is a crime to assault a transgendered person who behaving in a volatile manner.

I'd like to think that Taylor, Thomas, Smith and Harris realize that if they hadn't behaved as they dead, their friend McDonald wouldn't be going to prison. They're guilty of assault at the least, and since a man ended up dead, there are many potential aggravating factors. Regardless of their personal experiences and history, they decided to start a confrontation. Their history of being discriminated against does not excuse them from the law. If they just walk on, McDonald is free today.

And I hope that Flaherty and Thoreson realize it is equally their fault their lover Schmidt is dead. They decided to shout insults at strangers, and then to slash somebody's face with a broken glass (assault with a deadly weapon). If they don't do that, Schmidt is alive today.

Of course, I doubt any of these people will realize this. They all seem to be terribly handicapped people; believing that anything they do is justified, no matter the result, and that only a bigot or a freak could disapprove of their narcissistic and deadly behavior.


you really seem set on believing that both groups were at fault, and that Ms. McDonald is "volatile", "stupid", and "out of control" and that she and her friends are ~unstable~ and "confrontational" and "narcissistic"... despite there being absolutely NO real reason for you to believe any of these things. you sure are making a lot of assumptions here. and you also seem to believe that it's irresponsible behavior for people to ask bigots shouting slurs at them to stop, and that if said people cross the street in order to do so, that automatically means they are spoiling for a physical fight with said bigots (and apparently you don't consider shouting slurs to be "confrontational"?). also your first line is as disgustingly sensationalistic as the article itself, and has at least a whiff of stereotyping.



Michele like.author.displayName 1 Like

I have read this story before and find it to be sad. My son who is gay, but not transgender goes thru this every time He decides to go out with friends to a club. It's sad that He and his friends cannot go out have a good time and come home without me hearing the next day about some jerk who starts a fight.

ssissta like.author.displayName 1 Like

For one thing, Killing someone because of name-calling, or making fun of is just crazy!!! I don't think Dean should be the one on trail here!! Dean did not even know that CeCe was a tranny! The fight started with a stupid bitch that likes to run her mouth!! She should be sitting behind bars as well! If people can go around crying "I'm Black! I'm Transgender" OR even I'm Albino!! Then stab people around town....I sure would not want my kids walking in that neighborhood!! In other words...How safe do you feel if you don't let a killer know they have consequences for their actions? You let this one go and whats NEXT????


McDonald did not "go around crying 'I'm Black! I'm Transgender' [...] Then stab people around town", nor did she "kill someone because of name-calling or making fun" -- she and her friends were verbally harassed, then physically violently attacked, and she was defending herself. and as for the "Dean did not even know CeCe was a t****ny" part: A) don't use the t-word, it's a horrible slur, and B) Schmitz and co. shouted anti-trans slurs at McDonald and her friends as well as racist and gay-bashing slurs, so anti-trans bigotry was definitely part of the attack. "How safe do you feel if you don't let a killer know they have consequences for their actions?" -- again, you're misrepresenting things. **she was defending herself from a violent attack**. the system protecting people who commit hate crimes while punishing the targets of said crimes is the real safety issue here.

Indi Edwards Roughsedge
Indi Edwards Roughsedge

actually I am a trans activist, we face many dangerous obstacles in this world. I for one make no apologies if I am a little over the top and often perceived as radical. Being trans and being treated as a second class citizen or a target for bigots requires a hard line. Sorry but 18 years of transition has taught me that nothing changes unless you drag it kicking and screaming into reality. To all trans activists never let people guilt you into thinking what you are doing is pointless of over the top. Comments like this are garden variety cis derails. Never give up, say it. SAY IT LOUD.


The duty of a journalist is to be as objective as possible. In a highly charged, complex situation with political undertones and implications, a good piece of journalism delicately unpacks all perspectives and makes them more palatable. In the past, I was impressed with several City Pages features, especially the article about the teen suicides in Anoka. However, I am extremely disappointed by this feature. This article struck me as biased and sensationalistic. The order in which the author depicted events and perspectives and the way that particular witnesses' experiences and perspectives were painted as a dramatic, unfolding realities when others' weren't was troubling to me. Though Cece's supporters are depicted in the article, they are not given the introduction or opportunity to explain their stance that attorney Michael Freeman is given. The CityPages has painted a story with a very particular message, bent, and bias, but has attempted to pass it off as unbiased and even-handed, which, in my mind, is more egregious than simply taking a stance.

I do appreciate the posting of this video, which offers more information and perspective: http://blogs.citypages.com/blo...


I will not waste my time pointing out (again) that this article is inaccurate. You sensationalized for journalistic effect, instead of truly reporting on what happens to queer folks, especially queer folks of color when they survive physical violence (an experience sadly too familiar to too many in our communities). I will point out a practical point though: being transgender or LGB is not a "lifestyle". It is who someone is. It is their identity. I believe your choice of words says all there is to say about your attitude to our communities. This article is yet another assault on CeCe and on our communities. Please don't ever pretend to be a friend to LGBT people City Pages, because you are obviously not.


All of McDonald's supporters would probably get more credit if they didn't hurl insults at everyone that doesn't automatically agree with them. Looking at this string of comments and how people are responding, it makes a lot of sense to dismiss her supporters as heavily biased and irrational. If you have a reasonable point, argue it.

Sleepswithbooks like.author.displayName 1 Like

HurdyGurdy, I'm a lesbian and I agree with everything you've posted. This was a complex case, and I don't think CeCe's "supporters" ended up doing her a lot of favors overall. Just reading the posts here from them is pretty revealing.

Having said that, it's interesting to me that so many posts are denouncing this article, because it changed my mind. Before I read it, I was of the opinion that although CeCe may have been frightened, the end result was that she killed NOT the person who attacked her, but someone else, and therefore deserved to do at least some jail time. However, after reading this article, I think CeCe should've been sentenced to probation, not jail. I do not think the case should have been dismissed outright on the basis of self-defense. I don't consider self-defense to be when you willingly cross a street to engage your harassers and end up in a fight. Self-defense is when you have no other options. I do think it's unfair that the swastika tattoo (which shows Dean's feelings about gays and black people) and Dean's considerable criminal record were not allowed to be presented (had there been a trial, that is).

At any rate, CeCe seems a good soul who along with her friends made a really bad choice to engage Dean and his jerk friends. I know it's tempting to stand up for oneself and shout back, but if you do, realize you never know who you're dealing with, and be ready to deal with the consequences.


I don't know what would qualify the sentence as probation rather than jail time, but there are definitely some lingering questions about how the trail was framed. Dismissing Schmitz' violent criminal past is odd, and even stranger is the respective groups of him and McDonald don't seem to be implicated. I know there's charges coming against the person who hit McDonald with the glass, but how were CeCe's friends involved? Could one of the anonymous members of either group hold greater responsibility for escalating an argument into a fight?

However, I'm not sure if the tattoo is acceptable evidence; it just doesn't present any solid proof of Schmitz' character. In an interview his brother said Dean got the tattoo in prison as part of a gang initiation. He needed a gang for protection, and joined a White Supremacist group. That seems pretty logical to me, considering what prison can be like. People get tattoos all the time, and often for stupid (or logical-at-the-time) reasons. My sister has her ex-boyfriend's name on her arm, but it doesn't mean she still loves him. I also work with an old man with a swastika on his forearm - several of his coworkers (in a warehouse) are black, and they all get along well. To me he's always been kind and friendly. I don't know much about his past, but nothing about my experiences would say he's a racist. It's just too unclear.

CeCe obviously has a lot of friends in the community, and seems to be loved by many. This was never a judgement of her character, or a dismissal of the certain discrimination and hardship she's had to go through. But this had to go to trial, and CeCe needed to be held responsible for her actions. I wish this had never happened, that CeCe and her friends had ignored the small-minded people and continued living their lives. I hope, at least, that the case has exposed people to the difficulties of gender, race, and sexual discrimination, while also being an example of the power of non-violence.


You are quite right sir.Transgender activists often confuse being loud, obnoxious, and insulting, as effective tactics in persuasion.

It is sad to watch a group of folks who deserve to live their lives freely, continue to latch onto the wrong causes at the wrong time.


well you couldn't be much more stereotyping and condescending, MondeRed. and HurdyGurdy: your points were never reasonable (for example, you seem to think that crossing the street automatically equals "initiating a physical fight", and you also think that McDonald supporters believe she should be above the law and let off for anything she does because she faces bigotry but as far as i know no one has said this or even implied it) and you clearly came into this quite biased (you seem very invested in casting doubt on Ms. McDonald's actions and defending Schmitz, even calling McDonald's supporters a "lynch mob", which, as comparisons go, is way beyond merely inappropriate), so really... projection much?


Who fact checked this story? You can't even spell published authors names correctly.

The bias in this article is as thick as the skulls of the people who failed to edit it well.


Picture this: A fight breaks out, a white woman is hit across the face with with a wine glass and ends up stabbing a black man. Think that would go to trial?


Yeah.. Picture THAT!!!


What people are forgetting is a man is deceased at the hands of another human being! Whether the murder is white/black/Hispanic or otherwise! The accused needs to prove their innocence and/or pay the consequences! This man had a family! What I don't understand is why Ce-Ce McDonald is acting as a victim when a man was killed and He/She hasn't said one thing about remorse or any feelings about the incident! There seems to be more Denial and sympathy for Ce-Ce and nothing for the family that is in mourning.for their loved one!

numol like.author.displayName 1 Like

McDonald was attacked, a hate crime was committed against her and she was defending herself. you're so dead-set on thinking of Schmitz as an innocent victim when he and his buddies shouted slurs at HER (and yeah don't fucking misgender her) and her friends, and when they went to tell them to stop doing that, Schmitz and co. physically attacked them as a group.


With Mike Freeman, the same thing.


It seems like everyone is conveniently forgetting that McDonald and her friends crossed the street to confront the people harassing them. They willingly entered the conflict. That doesn't excuse the racist/homophobic behavior, but it does make claims of self-defense seem incredibly flimsy. Being insulted doesn't justify violent retaliation.

McDonald's supporters really seemed to want to put racism and homophobia on trial, while Freeman was looking to prosecute an individual crime. Both sides have valid claims, but trials are about facts and evidence. There is, of course, an easily catologued history of violence against minorities of all kind, but history is slippery evidence. Do we forgive all people for their crimes because they've been abused in the past, suffered discrimination, or belong to a group that has traditionally been oppressed? You can arguably link all criminal behavior to the abuse or unfortunate circumstances experienced by the "criminal," but how can you determine the validity and significance of those stories, and how do you balance that with the suffering of the victim? How much of Schmidt's violent history can be traced to his own past suffering?

A person was murdered in Minneapolis, and I want to live in a society where crimes like that are investigated to the fullest extent with measurable, definable data. Ideology has no place in our courts.


These "unfortunate circumstances" include being hit across the face with a glass. Since when is crossing the street considered willingly entering a fatal conflict.

"Being insulted doesn't justify violent retaliation" How about getting slashed across your face?

You sir, are a douchebag.


McDonald and her friends had a choice. They could continue walking down the road and ignore the insults, turn around and go home, or make the physical effort to cross the street and escalate the situation. Self-defense is reserved for people in fear for their lives and with no other choice. Insulting me isn't going to change that.


Your a perfect example of "POORME" syndrome!! If everyone needed as much attention as YOU..There would be a freaking circus act in every alley!


Standing up for your rights is honorable; I encourage it and hope to see a world that allows marriage rights for everyone and fights (the very real) discrimination against minority groups. But trying to circumvent the law and ignoring the hard facts of a case isn't activism. Blindly supporting a person because they're on your "team," despite legitimate doubts in a murder case isn't activism, and it's not productive. It's polarizing and self-defeating, because it essentially shows to people outside your cause that you think your "team" is above the law, and shouldn't go through the same legal processes that everyone else has to.

I know our legal system is prejudiced against many people, and our laws affect a disproportionate amount of minority groups. But, like I've said before, I'd much rather have a system with checks, balances, and appeals that measures facts than let the court of public opinion and the loudest activist group decide what the truth is.


Maybe we queers are so tired of being harassed that we're ready to start standing up to people.


Your first line is "Black Lady with a knife?"

Jesus fucking christ, City Pages. Check your privilege. That's a despicably insensitive way to begin what is already a sensationalized article that seems to make light of something so incredibly serious to the community by trying to heighten the drama.

Also, nice black face on the cover. Christ almighty.


Yes it should have read "Black man with a knife, dressed as a lady"!


@Jack: go away, gross troll.

Michael Lee
Michael Lee

WHO THE HELL IS THE EDITOR? Who let this get published or the cover art pass? City Pages is full of shit these days.


Excellent non-biased reporting... Finally we get to know all the facts and behind the scenes... I can not imagine what Lovely below is wanting. I support CeCe McDonald... I don't buy the prosecutor saying blind justice... he must be so into the gamesmanship of lawyering that he does not see his own blindness, when he thinks his job is not to consider the things that the law will not let the jury see, like a long violent criminal record, a clear history of racial hatred, and a prosecutor who is willing to let the first slice of CeCe's face be a freebie! A prosecutor willing to misrepresent the Minnesota statue regarding Self-Defense and set unreasonable standards for access to it. Blind justice... one wonders if CeCe had been the Mayor's daughter, would this case have been prosecuted? If I had been on that jury and heard of a bad check as the best the prosecution could come up with to paint CeCe badly... no way would I have convicted.


I really never understood the whole case until this article. I'm really glad that they reported it from both sides and now I have a clearer understanding of the case and why people are outraged by how CeCe McDonald has been treated in this case.


I will never read the city pages again you pathetic excuse for a journalist. If I had the power I'd strip you of your ability to publish anything and stick you in a gutter full of cat piss. Seriously. These are the times I'm glad that citizen journalism exists as it is increasingly obvious yall dumb fucks don't know how to write anything of truth or essence.


I find it funny that you criticize their writing but don't put a single reason as to why you disliked the article.


Here is the one thing about the article which both sides of the argument can agree on, look at the description of the fight (page 2), and look at the people who are quoted. Look at the people who are not quoted. Wonder why all the quotes are from the people in the bar, people who knew Schmitz.

If you wanted to present a balanced article I think you would want more views of the critical incident.


Well obviously you people love attention! The family of the deceased isn't running around asking for publicity.


For a case that has shone a terribly stark light on complex issues of racism and violence, it is not correct to say that "bad timing" caused this tragedy, and tragic mangling of justice which has followed it. White men and black trans women are not naturally mutually antagonistic groups. By a statement like this one, violence and oppression are posed as if they are natural, as if "exotic" queer and trans people could not help but inspire violence against them. It also equates Dean Schmitz's lifestyle, actions and beliefs with CeCe's trans status- thereby either naturalizing Dean's racism or posing CeCe's identity as a mere lifestyle. Either is unacceptable.

What it obscures is this: What happened to Dean and CeCe was AVOIDABLE; it happened because Dean and friends attacked CeCe and friends; it happened because CeCe and friends did not allow themselves to simply be beaten and perhaps killed; it happened because a racist criminal justice system does not seem to allow for the possibility of a Black individual acting in self-defense. It happened because people have been taught to despise trans people through misogyny and homophobia. I get the idea of the article; I get the lurid stylings, but it's wrong.


You make an excellent argument in your first paragraph, that we assume the tension between different groups is natural, and that it implies we should encourage segregation as a way of avoiding conflict, which is of course backwards and useless. Very well-stated.

However, I do take issue with your characterization of the events. Do you believe McDonald and her friends crossed the street to confront Schmidt and his group? That's the story I'm hearing, and it dramatically changes the claim of self-defense if McDonald actively pursued a conflict instead of walking away after being insulted. This information is key to the story, and to how I view the events, but no supporter of her's wants to discuss it.

I'd be more sympathetic to the cause if I heard some acknowledgement about the cloudiness of the case, and not just blanket statements about society's ingrained hatred towards the transgendered. Most people don't share your worldview and lense with which you view events like this, and most people have some faith in our justice system as the most effective tool we currently have to deal with conflict. Completely dismissing the validity of "society's" doubt and the effectiveness of our justice system is just a big step towards self-isolation and further misunderstanding.


"Do you believe McDonald and her friends crossed the street to confront Schmidt and his group?"

I don't know. That may have bearing on whether it was self-defense or not, but there needs to be some limit. At what point does an action cease to be self-defense? CeCe did not allegedly strike anyone until after she herself was seriously wounded. Does verbally responding to someone on the street entail entering a conflict willingly? Walking over to them? If so, I question whether 'self-defense' has enough applicability to be a meaningful defense.

I think many people are noticing that Zimmerman shot a black man dead and claimed self-defense, and was not arrested for some time. CeCe is a black woman and stabbed a man, and was arrested immediately. These cases together don't establish a statistical truth-- they've just both recieved media attention, and people are noticing a discrepancy. I hope the attention paid to this will clarify self-defense more.

I'm not concerned about offending people who have faith in the criminal justice system. My own research, based on government data, has shown me that black people are seriously disadvantaged in the system. I haven't seen data on self-defense in particular, but I'd like to. I hope that I will see that there is no racism there-- that would be great.


Self-defense laws are indeed the issue. States like Florida make it much easier with their Stand Your Ground laws to kill someone without legal consequence. However, Minnesota does not have a law similar to that, so the comparison with the Zimmerman/Martin case is innaccurate.

My point of view is that any time a person is attacked or killed, regardless of the circumstances, our legal system needs to get involved. I despise the Stand Your Ground laws because it removes the responsibility of the victim to defend their actions if they do indeed kill their attacker. When someone gets murdered, I want to know why, and with confidence.

Although a proponent of non-violent action, I'm not opposed to physical self-defense in the appropriate situation with no other options. My issue with the McDonald case is that she DEFINITELY had options. She made a choice, by crossing the street, to get further involved in that conflict, and whether or not she was doing it to stand up for transgender rights is not important. Because McDonald chose to respond to Schmitz, and not ignore him like most people ignore ignorant bigots shouting at them, she needs to take responsibility for the outcome. Schmitz did not deserve to die, the actual circumstances are unclear, and he wasn't even the one who hit McDonald with the glass. This case is not as simple as many of McDonald's supporters would have us believe. Schmitz being a bigot does not mean the state is handling this situation in an unfair way.

I'm also not taking issue with you offending anyone with your belief in the bias and discriminatory policies of our legal system. It's only when the criticism becomes one-sided that you risk alienating potential supporters and sympathetic citizens. Blaming some vague idea of "the system" as the guilty party, while completely absolving McDonald of any responsiblity, makes her supporters seem unreasonable and childish. That uneven distribution of guilt and responsibility is holding your cause back.

Maybe it's innapropriate, but I'm reminded of an episode of The Boondocks where R. Kelly goes to trial. Kelly's lawyer eventually gets the charges dropped by claiming the whole case is a conspiracy against a succesful black man, and the all-black jury eagerly eats up the illogical arguments and deflections as proof of his innocence, despite the overwhelming evidence against him. Huey angrily stops the post-trial celebration, and tells the courtroom "Yes, the government does conspire to jail innocent black men, but this is not one of those times. Have some sense people!"

Terrible paraphrasing, but it speaks to me about our need to examine cases individually, measure evidence, and reserve judgement, especially when an event is colored by social controversies.

Thanks for the conversation. I truly appreciate your candor, patience, and respect.


You are talking crap - the justice system does protect black people acting in self defense.


I don't appreciate that. Also, as I mentioned above, I'd like to see data on this. If you have some, please provide it.


So it's okay to post about this after the trial instead of when we needed mass support? You're just as racist and transphobic as CeCe's attackers.


the person that wrote this is a complete wiener and a tool of the state, very clearly. consider reading a book sometime. fuck you, guy.


Also, what's the deal with the cover art? Not only is it simplistic and sensationalist, it's really poorly done. Why is there a penny in the white side's eye? Why doesn't the white side have eyelashes!?! Why make this about black (with the black eye in purple makeup?) versus white (which i suppose it is in some ways), and not about a community mobilizing against racist and transphobic violence in addition to the violence of the prison system? Why emphasize the scissors when they were never found? And finally, why emphasize doubt? They was only doubt for the prosecution, for most local, national, and international queer (and non queer) communities this was a pretty clear cut case.


"There was only doubt for the prosecution, for most local, national, and international queer (and non queer) communities this was a pretty clear cut case."

What information did all these communities have that made it a clear-cut case? They had McDonald's changing stories, and their belief in the intrinsically racist and homophobic nature of police and our legal system. Legal cases are decided on evidence, and these communities had non whatsoever, just their anger.

This line of thinking is disgusting; you decide you know what happened because the "victim" is on your side (and also claim that nearly every community in the world agrees with you). There's absolutely nothing clear about this case (McDonald's stories weren't even consistent), and that's why we have trials. It's a prosecutor's job to have doubt and explore all angles of a case. Your logic is why so many people don't trust activist groups and leaders like Al Sharpton, because you boldly claim to have the truth on your side when you only know half (or less than half) of the case.

Like him or not, Schmidt was a human being with a family and a difficult past. To trivialize his death and deny his rights to a fair trial is oppressive. You guys have taken symbols (swastika, criminal past) and created a history about a man you know nothing about, and essentially claim that he deserved to die, or at least that his death is insignificant because he was probably an asshole. I'm not arguing that the trial has been completely fair (using McDonald's bad check conviction but not Schmidt's history of violent crimes is particularly glaring), but many of McDonald's supporters are just like any other lynch mob - protecting their own at all costs and ignoring the facts.

Indi Edwards Roughsedge
Indi Edwards Roughsedge

I've been on the other end of transphobic violence, i would of taken him out too, accidentally or otherwise. Self defence is something that all trans people have to think about. There is a line you never cross and its 10mm away from my face. Pass that and you forfeit your rights.


@Sleepswithbooks: don't be an asshole.