Sasha Fleischman: Defendant's Lawyer Says Fire Was a Prank, Not a Hate Crime
In a letter to teachers and administrators at Sequoia Elementary School, where he teaches kindergarten, Karl Fleischman fervently thanked everyone who helped his 18 year-old son Sasha, who was badly wounded when another teenager lit his skirt on fire.
The elder Fleischman also reminded us that nobody knows the true intentions of the suspect, 16 year-old Oakland High student Richard Thomas, who now faces two felony hate crime charges. Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley has petitioned the court to try Thomas as an adult.
O'Malley certainly has the tide of public opinion behind her, given that Sasha was a well-known activist for the agender community -- which comprises people who reject both male and female gender labels. Last week students at Maybeck High School wore skirts to express solidarity with their classmate. In a statement to police Thomas confessed to being homophobic, which seemed to cement the case's ideological underpinnings.
But Thomas' defense lawyer William Du Bois urged the prosecution to lighten its charges. In an interview with Chron reporter Henry K. Lee, he called the incident a "prank," and said the cops unfairly manipulated Thomas while cross-examining him.
He added that Thomas has been extremely remorseful and has written a letter to Fleischman's family asking for forgiveness. Because Thomas clearly appears in video footage of the attack, which occurred on an AC Transit bus on November 4, no one on the defense team questions his guilt. Du Bois has yet to return calls for comment.
The laywer's views might not garner a warm reception at this point, but he's no stranger to controversy. Du Bois has handled many complex, high profile cases in the past, including those of convicted wife-killer Hans Reiser and triple-murderer David Mills.
Thomas, whose mother vehemently denies the homophobia charge, seems much less cut-and-dry, and more likely to elicit public sympathy.