Teen Charged With Fire Attack on Bus Gets 7 Years

An Oakland boy who set a gender non-conforming high school student's skirt on fire on an AC Transit bus last year has been sentenced to seven years at a California juvenile facility.

Authorities said Richard Thomas, 17, told investigators he was homophobic, and he was initially charged as an adult with hate crimes.

He was sentenced Friday after reaching a plea deal on an assault charge. The hate crime and aggravated mayhem charges, which carried a sentence of up to life in prison, were dropped.

Sasha Fleischman, who identifies as agender rather than as male or female, suffered second- and third-degree burns when the skirt the teen was wearing was set on fire in November 2013.

"This is horrible what you did, but we don't hate you," Fleischman's mother, Debbie Crandall, told Thomas in court on Friday.

Thomas listened quietly as Crandall described Fleischman's injuries just before a judge sentenced the teen.

Thomas had set Fleischman's skirt, and subsequently legs, on fire while riding AC Transit bus No. 57 in Oakland on Nov. 4, 2013.

Fleischman, who identifies as agender rather than as male or female, suffered second- and third-degree leg burns and spent nearly three weeks in the hospital.

Surveillance video from the bus led to Thomas' arrest a few days after the attack.

Many in the Bay Area rallied around the agender teen, lining the streets with rainbows and wearing skirts to school, to show their support for Fleischman and the spectrum of gender identities.

Fleischman's parents previously said they had "mixed emotions" about the prison sentence. They have long fought to have Thomas tried in juvenile court, not as an adult.

On Friday, the parents said they feel the sentence is too hard -- they had hoped the teen would be treated as a juvenile, not as an adult.

"The thing that struck me when he walk in was, my God, he's just a kid," father Karl Fleischman said of Thomas. "He's still a young kid."

Thomas declined to speak in court. His family and attorney said the teen is sorry for what they describe as a prank gone bad.

"I can see it in his eyes," said Angelia Staten, Thomas' cousin. "He's genuinely sorry for what he's done."

NBC Bay Area's Jodi Hernandez and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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