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Teen Burned In Hate Crime Returns Home In Time For Thanksgiving


Photo via Fleischman Family

KTVU and Wires

OAKLAND, Calif. — After spending weeks in the hospital, the 18-year old Oakland teen that was set on fire on an AC Transit bus came home Wednesday just in time for Thanksgiving.

“It’s a wonderful treat except that I have to start cooking again,” joked Sasha Fleishman’s mother Debbie Crandall.

The teen, who does not identify as male or female, is referred to as “they” by close friends rather than he or she.  Sasha’s birth name is Luke.

Sasha Speaks to the Media for the First Time

On November 4th, Fleischman was riding on an AC Transit bus when he was attacked while asleep.  The teen was wearing a skirt when a 16-year Richard Thomas allegedly set the skirt on fire leaving Fleischman with severe burns on his legs.

Police say Thomas admitted to being homophobic but Defense Attorney William Debois denies his teenage client is homophobic.  Debois does concede video on the bus shows his client was responsible for the attack.

“The security footage from the bus makes that very clear.  There is no question about who is responsible in this case.  The question is under what circumstances and with what motivation he is responsible,” said Dubois on Tuesday.

Thomas has been charged as an adult and Dubois is trying to get the case moved back down to the juvenile court system.  A move Sasha Fleischman’s family supports.

“We would say, on principal, that we would think that a 16-year-old should be tried in juvenile court,” said father Karl Fleischman.
The family adds that they don’t know all the facts that led to the adult charges.

“We’re just hoping that something good will come of this,” Crandall said Wednesday.  “That this kind of intolerance that people will realize you can wear unusual clothing and it doesn’t mean you have a right to attack them.”

Original Story

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


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.


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.


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