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Hate-crime charges for boy in Oakland bus attack #Oakland

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SF GATE
Prosecutors filed hate-crime charges against a 16-year-old boy Thursday, saying he set aflame the skirt of a teenage gender-identity activist while the victim was asleep on a bus in Oakland, then admitted to police that he had started the fire because he was “homophobic.”

Richard Thomas of Oakland was charged as an adult with aggravated mayhem, assault and hate-crime enhancements in connection with Monday’s attack on Luke Fleischman, 18, whose legs were severely burned.

After Thomas made a brief afternoon appearance in an Oakland courtroom, where he did not enter a plea, his mother apologized and expressed sympathy for Fleischman. She said her son regretted his actions and wanted to write an apology letter to Fleischman.

“My son is not a hateful person,” said Thomas’ mother, who would identify herself only as Ms. Jackson. “He’s not homophobic. He’s a kid. Kids joke around. I think he will learn his lesson. He’s very remorseful. I’m sorry for it.”

Fleischman, an Oakland resident who attends Maybeck High School in Berkeley, goes by the name Sasha. The teenager was born male but has declined in the past to identify as male or female, instead preferring the term “genderqueer.”

Fleischman has sought legal recognition for “non-binary” gender, and launched an online petition hoping to draw President Obama’s attention to the issue.

The high schooler was being treated Thursday at St. Francis Memorial Hospital in San Francisco, which specializes in treating burns. A relative said a series of surgeries on second- and third-degree burns began Wednesday.

“Richard Thomas’ violent and senseless criminal conduct resulted in severe and traumatic injuries to a young and entirely innocent victim,” Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley said after her office filed the charges. “The intentional and callous nature of the crime is shocking and will not be tolerated in our community.”

Thomas used a lighter to set the sleeping victim’s skirt on fire, authorities said. At the time, the AC Transit bus was on MacArthur Boulevard near Ardley Avenue, just blocks from Fleischman’s home in Oakland’s Glenview neighborhood.

Thomas, a junior at nearby Oakland High School, was identified with the help of witnesses and video surveillance, police said. After he was picked up, he told police “he did it because he was homophobic,” Oakland police Officer Anwawn Jones wrote in a court affidavit.

Thomas was being held Thursday without bail at the Juvenile Justice Center in San Leandro.

Henry K. Lee is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: hlee@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @henryklee

 

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Senior Sasha Fleischman Was Set On Fire While Riding An AC Transit Bus In #Oakland

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Luke “Sasha” Fleischman is a Senior at Maybeck High School in Berkeley. He fell asleep on an AC Transit bus riding through Oakland on Monday night when a 16 year-old Oakland High boy set him on fire Oakland PD says because he was wearing a skirt.

“My son considers himself agender,” Debbie Fleischman said. “He likes to wear a skirt. It’s her statement. That’s how he feels comfortable dressing.”

Police say the 16 year-old Oakland boy boarded the bus near his school and saw the 18-year-old victim sleeping in the back of the bus wearing a skirt. He then set Sasha on fire. The victim woke up and tried unsuccessfully to put out the flames,while the other passengers on the bus rushed to the victim to assist him. The bus driver said he did not immediately recognize what was going on and pulled over a short distance later. All passengers exited the bus including the suspect.

The suspect, Richard Thomas, has been charged with aggravated mayhem and felony assault resulting in serious bodily injury, according to the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office.

Thomas also faces hate-crime clauses on both counts, prosecutors said.

The suspect was in court Thursday and according to the arrest documents he set Sasha on fire “because he was homophobic.” He remains in custody at the Alameda County Juvenile Justice Center.

His family denies he’s homophobic.

“He didn’t know it was going to be like that. What kind of boy is he? He’s a good kid. He’s a very good kid. Why did he do it? I don’t know. He was joking around, that’s all,” the woman said.

Thomas’ mother, who identified herself as Ms. Jackson and spoke off-camera, saying she did not believe her son was guilty of a hate crime.

“I am very sorry for my son’s actions. I did not raise my son that way.” As for the hate crime allegations, Jackson said “No way. We have transgenders in the family, first cousins.”

In a statement today, District Attorney Nancy O’Malley called the crime senseless and said Fleischman was an “entirely innocent victim.”

“The intentional and callous nature of the crime is shocking and will not be tolerated in our community. Our thoughts remain with the victim and the victim’s family in wishing for a full recovery from the extensive burns suffered as a result of this crime,” she said.

http://www.ktvu.com/videos/news/oakland-family-defends-teen-charged-with-lighting/vCHndH/

A fund has been set up to help Sasha Fleischman with his medical bills. He’s in stable condition with 2nd and 3rd degree burns at St Francis Memorial Hospital.

If you would like to help Sasha and his family with the medical costs you can do so here: http://fundly.com/helping-sasha-fleischman-have-a-speedy-recovery

The students of Maybeck High School wore skirts today to support Sasha.

http://www.ktvu.com/news/news/crime-law/suspects-family-disputes-hate-crime-charge/nbmHH/

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