An Oakland teenager who was convicted of setting the skirt of an agender teen on fire on a public bus has had his 7-year sentence reduced, something the family of the burned victim had advocated for since their child's legs were severely burned two years ago.
The Oakland Tribune reported Monday that the modified sentence means Richard Thomas likely won't have to spend time in an adult prison after he turns 18 on Thursday. With time served, the Alameda County District Attorney's Office said Thomas will likely be eligible to be released just before his 21st birthday.
Thomas pleaded no contest to assault last year in the November 2013 attack on Luke "Sasha'' Fleischman that prosecutors claimed was motivated by homophobia. Thomas' atttorney, William DuBois, however, had argued that Thomas simply engaged in a horrible prank and couldn't even spell homophobia.
Fleischman, who identifies as "agender,'' was sleeping on an AC Transit bus and suffered second- and third-degree burns when Thomas set the teen's skirt aflame with a lighter. Fleischman has since recovered and now attends university.
Fleischman's story made national news, and the teen's parents had argued in open letters and in court that they did not want Thomas to be charged as an adult. They were not at Monday's hearing, but were at an earlier hearing asking for leniency, a district attorney's repsentative said.
In October 2014, Fleischman's mother, Debbia Crandall wrote: "Our hearts go out to Richard and his family. Because of what seems to have been a childish, impulsive, tragic lack of judgement on the part of Richard, his and his family's lives have been altered even more severely than ours. We have stated before, and continue to believe, that a 16-year-old's actions, however severe the results, have no place in an adult judicial system."
"Everything worked out as all the parties hoped that it would," according to a Monday statement from the District Attorney's Office.
"Agender," or non-binary gender, means that the teen doesn't identify as either a male or a female and prefers the plural pronoun "they" when being referred to.
The Tribune reported that Alameda County Judge Paul Delucchi agreed to resentence Thomas to 5 years based on his good behavior and to recommend that he remain in juvenile detention for the remainder of his term.