OAKLAND -- A 16-year-old Oakland boy on Thursday pleaded not guilty to hate crime charges for setting fire to an agender teen on an AC Transit bus.
Richard Thomas is scheduled to have a preliminary hearing Feb. 25 on charges of aggravated mayhem and assault likely to cause great bodily injury, each which carry an allegation that he attacked 18-year-old Oaklander Luke "Sasha" Fleischman based on Fleischman's gender identity.
Fleischman identified as "nonbinary" gender, neither male or female. Fleischman was sleeping on a bus Nov. 4 when Thomas set fire to the high school senior's skirt, an incident that was caught on surveillance video. Fleischman suffered second- and third-degree burns that required massive skin grafting.
Thomas' attorney William Du Bois describes the incident as a childish prank gone wrong. Du Bois said he is planning a second petition to have Thomas' case remanded to juvenile court based on a review of Thomas' confidential criminal record, which he says was a factor in the Alameda County District Attorney's Office decision to prosecute Thomas as an adult.
Contact Malaika Fraley at 925-234-1684. Follow her at Twitter.com/malaikafraley.