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Defendant in Gender-Nonconforming Skirt Burning to Remain in Adult Court

by Seth Hemmelgarn
Saturday Jan 25, 2014

A judge in Oakland last week ruled that the teenager who allegedly burned the skirt of a gender non-conforming teen should remain in adult court.

At a hearing Thursday, January 16 in Alameda County Superior Court, Judge J. Richard Couzens denied attorney William Du Bois's request for his client, Richard Allen Thomas, 16, to be charged as a juvenile.

Thomas is accused of setting fire to the skirt of Sasha Fleischman, 18, November 4 as they rode an AC Transit bus in Oakland. Fleischman suffered severe burns in the incident.

The district attorney's office has charged Thomas with aggravated mayhem and assault resulting in serious bodily injury. Each count carries a hate crime enhancement. If convicted, he could face life in prison.

Thomas, who's been in custody since shortly after the incident, is expected to enter a plea Thursday, January 23. Both Fleischman and Thomas are of Oakland.

Debra Crandall, 60, Fleischman's mother, said in a phone interview about the ruling, "I'm sad that's what they've chosen to do, but we've talked with the DA. They seem to feel like this is the right way to go with it. We're kind of torn ... to put a 16-year-old kid away for life seems really harsh."

Crandall added, "I feel like perhaps the DA's office must have information they can't give us completely."

Du Bois has indicated Thomas has a criminal history, but details are confidential because he's a juvenile.

Crandall said based on information from the DA's office, "the sentencing is where there may be some leeway."

Fleischman, who wasn't available Friday for an interview, is doing "pretty good," said Crandall.

"They're back at school, but there's still some healing that has to be done," she said. As far as the family is aware, "the surgeries are done, it's just the skin grafts needing to heal."

Du Bois hasn't disputed that Thomas set fire to Fleischman but has said, "As far as I can tell," the incident "was the result of a juvenile prank that went horribly wrong a juvenile prank that went horribly wrong."

He's also said members of Thomas's family are gay and "he doesn't have a homophobic bone in his body."

Sasha Fleischman prefers "they," "them," and "their," when people refer to them in the third person, according to Karl Fleischman, their father.

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