OAKLAND (KCBS) — The attorney for a 16-year-old Oakland boy accused of setting another teen on fire aboard an AC Transit bus earlier this month said it was not a hate crime during a court appearance on Friday.

Noted defense Attorney William Du Bois also said he will challenge his client being charged as an adult in the case.

Authorities said surveillance video shows Richard Thomas lighting Luke “Sasha” Fleischman’s skirt on fire as Fleischman slept during a bus ride on November 4th. Fleischman suffered second and third degree burns from the incident.

While the Alameda County District Attorney is calling the incident a heinous crime, Du Bois is downplaying it as a prank.

Prosecutors said Fleischman, who is agender and does not identify as male or female, was the victim of a hate crime. Meanwhile, Thomas’ attorney disputed claims that his client is homophobic.

“He doesn’t even know how to spell homophobic let alone be homophobic. There are members of his family who are gay. He has absolutely not a homophobic bone in his body,” Du Bois said.

The defense also claimed that police used legal, but unfair tactics to obtain a statement from Thomas, which lead the district attorney to charge him with a hate crime and as an adult.

Du Bois is challenging the charges and said Thomas belongs in a juvenile court. That motion will be considered at a hearing on November 26th.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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