Oakland teen accused in AC Transit fire in court


The purpose of the hearing, which was scheduled to begin Thursday, was to determine if there was enough evidence for Richard Thomas to stand trial on the charges against him for his alleged attack on 18-year-old Luke "Sasha" Fleischman.

But Thomas' attorney, William DuBois, told a judge that he doesn't dispute the basic facts of the incident, in which Thomas allegedly used a lighter to set Fleischman's clothing on fire as Fleischman slept in the back of the bus as it traveled near MacArthur Boulevard and Ardley Avenue in Oakland the evening of Nov. 4.

DuBois has conceded that security footage from the AC Transit bus makes it clear that Thomas is the person who set Fleischman on fire, but he maintains that details still need to be clarified about Thomas' state of mind and other circumstances.

DuBois said today that it is more appropriate for those issues to be explored at pretrial hearings and at a trial than at a preliminary hearing.

Thomas, who is being held in custody without bail, is scheduled to return to court on March 20 to be arraigned. Hearing dates for pretrial motions and his trial will be set at that time.

Fleischman, who was named "Luke" at birth, is a student at Maybeck High School in Berkeley who doesn't identify as male or female.

He suffered second- and third-degree burns in the bus incident and spent three weeks in the burn unit at St. Francis Memorial Hospital in San Francisco.

In addition to the mayhem charge, Thomas faces assault and hate crime clauses, but his attorney contends he only meant to carry out a prank.

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