OAKLAND -- A 16-year-old Oakland boy who set fire to an agender youth on an AC Transit bus last year was ordered to trial on aggravated mayhem, assault and hate crime charges on Thursday upon waiving his right to a preliminary hearing.

Richard Thomas, who is being prosecuted as adult, faces life in prison if convicted as charged for setting fire to 18-year-old Oakland resident Luke "Sasha" Fleischman's skirt on Nov. 4 as Fleischman was sleeping on the bus. Prosecutors allege Fleischman was targeted based on the high school senior's "nonbinary" gender identity, neither male nor female. Fleischman, a senior at Maybeck High School in Berkeley, is recovering from severe burns.

William Du Bois, attorney for Richard Thomas, speaks with reporters at the Wiley W. Manuel Courthouse after his client Richard Thomas, 16, appeared in
William Du Bois, attorney for Richard Thomas, speaks with reporters at the Wiley W. Manuel Courthouse after his client Richard Thomas, 16, appeared in Alameda County Superior Court in Oakland, Calif., on Friday, Nov. 15, 2013. Thomas was going to enter his plea for allegedly lighting 18-year-old Luke "Sasha" Fleischman's skirt on fire on an AC Transit bus last week, but was granted another court date to challenge being tried as adult. Thomas is currently being tried as an adult and faces life in prison if convicted. Fleischman, who attends Maybeck High School in Berkeley, is agender, and does not identify as male or female but as nonbinary gender. (Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group) (JANE TYSKA)

Defense attorney William Du Bois said Thursday that Thomas waived preliminary hearing in part to avoid having bus surveillance video of the incident to be played in court before a trial when Thomas would have the first opportunity to explain himself. Du Bois says homophobia played no role in fire-setting, which he characterizes as an ill-conceived prank gone horribly wrong.

No trial date has been set.

Contact Malaika Fraley at 925-234-1684. Follow her at Twitter.com/malaikafraley.



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