CeCe McDonald pleads guilty to lesser charge

Chrishaun "CeCe" McDonald, a transgender woman facing two second-degree murder charges, agreed to a plea deal in court today.

McDonald pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter, which will carry a 41-month sentence.

McDonald was accused of stabbing Dean Alvin Schmitz in the heart outside the Schooner Tavern in south Minneapolis last summer. Her attorneys said she was the victim of an attack started by Schmitz and his friends.

Advocates for McDonald held a rally outside the Hennepin County Government Center after the plea. Many dressed in purple, they touted the outcome as a small victory.

"This felony count was not what the state was trying to convict CeCe of," said Jude Ortiz, a member of McDonald's support committee.

Katie Burgess, president of the Trans Youth Support Network, criticized the legal system, arguing the odds are stacked against transgender people.

"We fought for her acquittal in a system designed to seek convictions, regardless of the truth."

McDonald's official sentencing will take place June 4.

Update [2:10 p.m.]:

Reached by phone, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman called the plea "an appropriate result for a tragic incident."

"What makes it tragic is one man is dead, and another person will spend 41 months in prison," says Freeman.

Freeman denied allegations from McDonald's supporters that race or gender identity played into his office's decision to pursue the charges.

"There were people in this case who felt that we ought to view this case in light of other societal mistakes, including homophobia, racism, etc. What I have always tried to do is to concentrate solely on the facts of each individual case. To give either special pereference or lack of preference to any particular group...means that lady justice all the sudden is blind, and she can't be."

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