Defense Attorney William DuBois filed a motion Tuesday in Alameda County Superior Court asking that the alleged bus torching case against his client Richard Thomas be moved to juvenile court, arguing his client is a “16-year-old child who made a mistake.”
Defendant Thomas saw agender youth Sasha Fleischman, 18, sleeping on the back of an AC Transit bus on November 4 and thought it would be “cute” to light his skirt on fire, according to the attorney, but “was horrified at the result.”
Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley quickly filed charges against Thomas as an adult for aggravated mayhem and felony assault, both of which carry hate crime enhancements.
The District Attorney’s decision to charge Thomas as an adult, DuBois said, is “unconstitutional” and should be left to the court’s discretion.
“It should not be independently decided by a District Attorney who has little interest in the minor’s welfare,” he said. “This minor ought to have the benefit of a court’s review rather than an independent judgment by the executive branch that he ought to be treated like an adult.”
DuBois cited the difference in the two judicial systems as one rationale for filing the motion.
“In the sense that his rehabilitation will benefit society, he’s got a better chance in juvenile court where rehabilitation is an actual goal,” DuBois said, “instead of in adult court where punishment is the only goal.”
Although Thomas has yet to enter a plea, the defense attorney hasn’t denied the teen’s involvement in the incident. According to DuBois, security footage shows Thomas lighting Fleischman on fire. What is in question is the motivation behind the act.
DuBois said that Thomas denies telling police that homophobia was the reason for his actions, as the police report states. The attorney said he received video of the statement earlier today and has yet to review it.
Thomas is scheduled to appear in Superior Court again on December 20, when the judge may present a decision on the motion to send the case to juvenile court.