Lyric Dunbar, a former Philadelphia deputy sheriff who was fired last year after being caught on video twice punching a woman inside the Family Court building, was sentenced Tuesday to attend anger-management class — and her victim, who says she has suffered brain damage from the assault, expressed outrage.
Dunbar, 34, had been scheduled for a preliminary hearing Tuesday on charges of simple assault and harassment, but instead pleaded guilty to the assault charge. She also was sentenced to six months of nonreporting probation, which will end upon completion of the class. The District Attorney’s Office dropped the harassment charge as part of the plea deal approved by Municipal Court Judge Jacqueline Frazier-Lyde.
Dunbar’s victim, Melanie Greenstein, who had been sitting in the back row of the courtroom on the ninth floor of the Criminal Justice Center, said she considered the sentence a slap on the wrist for a crime that should have landed Dunbar in jail.
“I think it’s disgraceful, it’s insulting,” said Greenstein, 28, of Bensalem, after leaving the courtroom. “She’s a cop. I have brain damage. I had a traumatic brain injury, a severe concussion, vision loss. I’m still suffering from the injuries. She beat me up.”
Greenstein was not asked to speak during the hearing.
The assault took place last July 30 after Greenstein arrived at the Family Court building at 15th and Arch Streets to pick up her daughter from the child’s father as part of a court-supervised weekly custody exchange, she said after Tuesday’s hearing. After she went through the metal detectors at the entrance, Dunbar followed her and attacked her for reasons she did not know, Greenstein said, adding that they did not exchange words before the assault.
“She punched me in my face twice and knocked my glasses off. My glasses stabbed me in my eye,” Greenstein said. “She started spitting her potato chips on me. Then the next thing I knew, she sucker-punched me in the back of the head.”
Ben Waxman, spokesman for District Attorney Larry Krasner, said the police report of the incident shows that Dunbar attacked the victim after Greenstein, who is white, used the N-word and said that Dunbar, who is black, was acting like a monkey.
“To be clear, if someone used a racial epithet, you still can’t punch them in the face, you can’t clock them,” Waxman said. “You have to be able to control your temper if you’re in law enforcement. And if you can’t, there are consequences.”
Dunbar said nothing during the hearing other than stating her age and affirming that she understood that a guilty plea could negatively affect future employment opportunities and plans to travel abroad. When she left the courthouse, she looked downward and covered her face to avoid being photographed.
Her attorney, Brian McLaughlin, said the plea deal was in his client’s best interest. “The facts of the case are what they are. We engaged in negotiations, and this was the [deal] presented by the district attorney after reviewing the facts. It worked out well for my client.”
Dunbar was hired by the Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office in August 2013. She was arrested Dec. 22, five months after the assault, following an investigation conducted under Krasner’s predecessor, Kelley B. Hodge.
This was not Dunbar’s first brush with the law. In September 2016, she was arrested for allegedly using her service weapon to shoot at her ex-boyfriend outside her home. Dunbar, of the 1500 block of Orland Street in West Oak Lane, was charged with aggravated and simple assault, but the man who authorities say was her intended target failed to show up three times for preliminary hearings, and charges were dropped on Oct. 26, 2016, according to court records.