Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 7 / 15 February 2018

Resolution delayed in skirt burning case


Sasha Fleischman in an undated photo

The attorney for the boy accused of burning a gender non-conforming teen last year said Thursday, September 11 that a resolution in the case is close, but he indicated the families haven’t been able to agree on what should happen.

Richard Thomas, 17, allegedly used a lighter to set fire to the skirt worn by Sasha Fleischman, 18, skirt as they rode an AC Transit bus in Oakland November 4, 2013. Fleischman suffered severe burns and was hospitalized for several weeks.

Thomas has pleaded not guilty to charges of aggravated mayhem and assault resulting in serious bodily injury. Each count carries a hate crime enhancement. If convicted, he could face life in prison.

William Du Bois, Thomas’s attorney, has said for months that he’s trying to work out a resolution with prosecutors before the case goes to trial.

At Thursday morning’s hearing in Alameda County Superior Court in Oakland, Judge Paul Delucchi asked if the case would be resolved during that day’s session.

“We’re allegedly on the cusp of that,” Delucchi said.

“We still are,” Du Bois said, but a deal hasn’t been reached yet.

Outside the courtroom, Du Bois said, “We’re really close to a disposition,” but it’s been like “herding cats to get everybody” from Fleischman’s and Thomas’s families “together.” With the additional challenge of representing a juvenile, “That’s what’s causing me the blues,” he said.

Asked whether Thomas’s family wants one outcome and Fleischman’s family wants another, Du Bois said that’s “a fair inference, but I can’t say that’s the case.”

He wouldn’t share any details of what the resolution may look like, but he said it could be reached “in the next couple of weeks.”

Debra Crandall, Fleischman’s mother, has said she’s “sad” about Thomas being charged as an adult. “We’re kind of torn … to put a 16-year-old kid away for life seems really harsh.”

However, she’s said, “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.

The attorney 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.”

Thomas, who’s been in custody since shortly after the incident, looked toward a family member who was sitting in the back of the room as he walked into court Thursday. His hands had been cuffed to a chain around his waist. Approached before the hearing, the family member declined to speak with the Bay Area Reporter.

A call to Fleischman’s home wasn’t returned Thursday.

The next court date is October 10, when a deal could still be announced. A trial date of December 8 is also set in case a resolution isn’t agreed upon before that.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, September 11, 2014 @ 1:53 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

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