’Gender Nonconforming’ Student, Burned in ’Prank,’ Receives Support
The gender-nonconforming high school student who was burned on a bus in Oakland is continuing to recover from their injuries as the attorney for the boy charged in the attack claims it was a "prank."
Luke Sasha Fleischman, 18, of Oakland, had fallen asleep on an AC Transit bus November 4 when Richard Allen Thomas, 16, also of Oakland, allegedly set Fleischman’s skirt on fire. Sasha Fleischman prefers "they," "them," and "their," when people refer to them in the third person, according to Karl Fleischman, Fleischman’s father.
In a phone interview Tuesday, November 19, Karl Fleischman said Sasha Fleischman was still in the hospital but "recovering gradually, and I think it’s according to the timetable that the doctors are expecting. I don’t want to go into a lot of details, but things are looking good, I would say."
Attorney William Du Bois appeared with Thomas Friday, November 15 in Alameda County Superior Court in Oakland before Superior Court Judge Eric L. Labowitz. Du Bois wants Thomas processed as a juvenile and filed a motion Friday challenging prosecutors’ decision to charge him as an adult.
Thomas had been expected to enter a plea Friday to charges of aggravated mayhem and assault resulting in serious bodily injury. Both counts carry a hate crime enhancement. If convicted, he could face life in prison.
Outside court, Du Bois said, "As far as I can tell," the incident "was the result of a juvenile prank that went horribly wrong."
He questioned an Oakland police officer previously indicating that Thomas had admitted he was homophobic.
"Members of his family are gay," said Du Bois. "He doesn’t have a homophobic bone in his body." Du Bois said one of Thomas’s family members who has come to Thomas’s court hearings is gay. That person, along with Thomas’s mother and other family members, have declined to speak with reporters, although one said Friday, "Please pray."
Du Bois said Thomas has written "sincere, heartfelt apologies" and expressed sympathy and empathy with Fleischman. Thomas "feels absolutely horrible about this," said Du Bois, who added that Thomas’s family is "upset that he’d even consider this type of a prank."
He said he hasn’t seen the video of the incident, but Thomas used a lighter, thinking "it was just going to be a flame and he’d pat it out." Du Bois said he didn’t know whether Thomas had tried to put out the fire.
Asked about Du Bois’s comment that the incident resulted from a prank, and what he’d like to see happen with Thomas, Karl Fleischman said, "We haven’t really had time to process all that, and so I think I’d rather not comment on that."
Karl Fleischman and Debbie Crandall spoke to people who showed up to support their child Luke Sasha Fleischman at a march November 14.
He said he’d heard about Thomas writing letters of apology, but the family hasn’t received any. He said they had received information that said Thomas was forbidden "from making any contact with the victim, or maybe with the family, so I’m a little confused about."