Monday, November 11, 2013

UPDATE: A Young Man Was Set On Fire For Wearing A Skirt

Last week I posted about Luke "Sasha" Fleischman who was set on fire while asleep on a bus ride home from school—see post HERE. It was alleged that the reason behind the attack was that the attacker, now identified as sixteen-year-old Richard Thomas, didn’t like the fact that Luke was wearing a skirt.

I spent a great deal of time wondering if that was the case; could a person’s clothing be seen as some sort of excuse for a Hate Crime? Turns out it was.

Thomas has confessed to Oakland police that his own homophobia caused him to light Luke’s clothing on fire. As a result, Richard Thomas has been charged as an adult with aggravated mayhem and assault and could go to prison for life if convicted. Felony aggravated assault carries a maximum prison sentence of life with the possibility of parole; the sentence for the assault charge is a maximum of eight years, while each of the two hate crime enhancements carry a one year sentence each.
“[Richard Thomas’] violent and senseless criminal conduct resulted in severe and traumatic injuries to a young and entirely innocent victim. … The intentional and callous nature of the crime is shocking and will not be tolerated in our community. Our thoughts remain with the victim and the victim's family in wishing for a full recovery from the extensive burns suffered as a result of this crime."— Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley
Police say Thomas boarded the bus near Oakland High School late last Monday afternoon and when he saw Luke asleep, and wearing a skirt, he decided to set the other person on fire.

This is a hard story to write because I wish to be respectful to Luke/Sasha, who identifies as "nonbinary" gender, meaning the Oakland teen does not identify as male or female; Luke’s friends use the pronouns "they," "them" or sometimes "it" when referring to Fleischman, so I’ll try to be respectful in the same manner.

Richard Thomas’ family was in court as he was arraigned and say the fire was set as a prank, or a joke — though no one seemed able to explain how lighting another human being on fire is funny — and the family pleased with the court to allow Thomas time to hire an attorney; that wish was granted. Family members also say Thomas is sorry for what he’s done, and then denied he’s homophobic, despite his confession to the contrary.

But let’s end this with some good news, shall we?

Supporters of Luke/Sasha Fleischman have raised $20,000 in just two days to help pay the medical bills, which will, at some point, include massive skin grafting and a lengthy recovery period. And while that’s a lovely thing to do, it’s what Luke’s classmates did last week at school that gives me hope that these types of things may not happen again, or at least as often.

Students and staff members at Maybeck High School in Berkeley where Luke attended classes donned their own skirts last Friday in solidarity with their classmate; there were actual skirts, some sarongs, and a few kilts all over the school last week as a way of condemning the attack and supporting Fleischman.
"The students wanted to rally their support for Sasha, so they came up with the idea of wearing skirts because that's what Sasha likes to do and what Sasha was wearing when Sasha was lit on fire."—Trevor Cralle, school director, who wore a floral sarong
The school posed for a group photo that would be delivered to Fleischman.

A skirt; sometimes that all it takes to ignite someone’s homophobia. A skirt; but then, other times, a skirt is a sign of hope and solidarity and pride and support.

School dons skirts in honor of burn victim


anne marie in philly said...

YAYZ for the classmates! now let's set the perp on fire and throw him in jail; he can be bubba's new girlfriend.

sorry, but I have no sympathy for the perp. karma is a bitch, dude; YOU WILL get yours when you least expect it, asshole.

the dogs' mother said...

HOORAY!!! for Maybeck High Schoo

The Huntress said...

I'm glad the school did this to back Sasha. It really give me hope for the future generation.

As for Thomas, he deserves to go en fuego for his actions. Or at minimum, go away for a very long time.

Mind Of Mine said...

I read the thumbnail and I thought the offender had made the statement that his own homophobia was the motivation, and I read it thinking I would hear a story of guilt and redemption.

But I smiled so much at the classmates, donning skirts in a sign of solidarity. Inspiring.

♫Musique♫ said...

Yay for the classmates showing support and love. I pray and hope that the attacker learns his lesson and learns how to respect others. I agree he should do time for what he's done. Homophobia is the reason and the parents see that as well.

viktor kerney said...

I still can't believe this happened

Ms Sparrow said...

It's sad that a 16-year-old may go to prison for life for such a stupid, impetuous act. But still, how messed up is a person who sets fire to another human being on impulse, whatever the reason? he should be kept away other people.
The support of Sasha's fellow students is just heartwarming!