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Defendant in Calif. Bus Passenger Fire in Court

Associated Press

Friday November 15, 2013

A 16-year-old charged with assault and hate crimes after police say he set a male teen's skirt on fire appeared in court, but did not enter a plea.

Richard Thomas was in Alameda County Superior Court on Tuesday with his attorney, Daniel Shriro, and several family members. He is scheduled to return to court on Friday to enter a plea.

Thomas is accused of setting 18-year-old Luke Fleischman's skirt on fire as Fleischman slept on a bus in Oakland on Nov. 4.

According to police, Thomas told investigators he did it because he was homophobic. Relatives and friends have said Fleischman identifies as "agender,"a designation sometimes adopted by people who see themselves as neither male nor female.

Fleischman is recovering from second and third-degree burns.

Shriro said his client is entitled to a vigorous defense. Thomas's family declined to comment.

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