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Oakland teen pleads not guilty to setting bus rider ablaze

The high school student charged with a hate crime for allegedly setting the clothes of an Oakland teen who identifies as non-gender on fire pleaded not guilty.

Luke "Sasha" Fleischman, 18, was asleep on an Oakland city bus Nov. 4 when the high schooler's skirt was allegedly set ablaze by 16-year-old Richard Thomas, who was charged as an adult with assault and aggravated mayhem with hate-crime enhancements.

Thomas allegedly told a police officer after the incident that he set Fleischman's skirt on fire because he was "homophobic." 

Fleischman, who identifies as neither male nor female, suffered second- and third-degree burns in the attack.

Thomas' attorney William Du Bois described the incident to the Oakland Tribune as a childish prank gone wrong.

In an interview with CBS San Francisco in late November, even Fleischman questioned whether Thomas should be charged as an adult.

"I don't want to be too harsh, just because, people do dumb things," Fleischman said.

Du Bois said he is planning a second petition to have Thomas' case remanded to juvenile court based on a review of his client's confidential criminal record.

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jason.wells@latimes.com

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