NAVY SEALS

Sailor accused of igniting USS Bonhomme Richard puts fate in judge

todaySeptember 19, 2022 1

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SAN DIEGO — The younger sailor accused of one of many army’s worst noncombat ship disasters on Monday agreed to place his destiny within the fingers of a lone Navy choose who will determine whether or not he ignited the USS Bonhomme Richard in 2020 — or because the protection suggests, there might not have been arson in any respect.

Ryan Sawyer Mays waived his proper to a jury and advised Capt. Derek Butler that he needs him to rule on the finish of the court docket martial, which began Monday at Naval Base San Diego.

In keeping with prosecutors, Mays was a younger, conceited sailor indignant about being assigned to deck responsibility after failing to turn into a Navy SEAL — and he made the Navy pay in an enormous means.

“Your honor, it was a mischievous act of defiance gone flawed,” Cmdr Leah O’Brien advised the choose throughout opening statements for the prosecution.

Mays’ army protection counsel, Lt. Tayler Haggerty, countered in her opening remarks that it’s the Navy who’s flawed. Haggerty stated investigators concluded Mays did it earlier than the probe was full after which ignored proof and witness accounts that didn’t match into that narrative so they might discover a scapegoat for the lack of a billion-dollar ship that was mismanaged by senior officers.

As soon as investigators pinned the blame on Mays, who was identified for being sarcastic and flippant, “nothing else mattered,” Haggerty stated.

“Simply because the federal government eliminates, ignores items of proof, it doesn’t imply the court docket ought to,” she advised the court docket. Haggerty advised the choose by the top of the trial, which is meant to final two weeks, “you’ll exonerate this sailor and discover him not responsible of each costs.”

Mays is charged with aggravated arson and the willful hazarding of a vessel. He has denied any wrongdoing.

The prosecution has offered no bodily proof proving that Mays, 21, set the USS Bonhomme Richard on fireplace.

The July 2020 blaze burned for practically 5 days and despatched an acrid smoke over San Diego, damaging the amphibious assault ship so badly that it needed to be scuttled. It marked one of many worst noncombat warship disasters in latest reminiscence.

Gary Barthel, a civilian lawyer who represented Mays at a preliminary listening to to find out if there was possible trigger to ship the case to trial, stated the Navy choose overseeing that course of really useful the case not go to court docket martial. However Vice Adm. Steve Koehler, the previous commander of the San Diego-based U.S. third Fleet, who had the ultimate say, ordered the court docket martial.

Barthel stated the Navy’s case depends largely on the account of a fellow sailor who has acknowledged altering it repeatedly. He stated investigators brushed apart the truth that lithium batteries had been saved subsequent to extremely flamable materials resembling cardboard containers, in violation of ship protocol.

Barthel stated he provided his providers professional bono as a result of he thought Mays wouldn’t be court docket martialed, however he doesn’t have time along with his full-time follow to proceed to symbolize the sailor, who’s utilizing army counsel. Nonetheless, he stated he’s talking out as a result of the Navy case is unjust.

“I feel there’s some actual questions as as to whether or not the hearth was an arson,” Barthel stated. “And if it had been deemed an arson, there are questions on whether or not Ryan Mays began this hearth.”

The prosecution’s witness, Petty Officer third Class Kenji Velasco, blamed his nervousness for the modifications to his story and stated in the course of the preliminary listening to that he was now “100%” certain that he noticed Mays descend to the ship’s decrease car storage space on the day of the hearth.

Barthel believes the Navy is utilizing Mays as a scapegoat somewhat than admit it was solely the mismanagement by senior officers that led to the lack of the billion-dollar vessel, or acknowledge that they pinned the blame on the flawed man.

Whereas investigators stated Mays set the hearth, a Navy report final 12 months concluded that the inferno was preventable and unacceptable, and that there have been lapses in coaching, coordination, communications, fireplace preparedness, gear upkeep and general command and management.

Navy leaders disciplined greater than 20 senior officers and sailors in reference to what it described as widespread management failures that contributed to the catastrophe. The Navy unfold blame throughout a variety of ranks and tasks and immediately faulted the ship’s three prime officers.

The ship was present process a two-year, $250 million improve pier-side in San Diego when the hearth broke out. About 115 sailors had been on board, and practically 60 had been handled for warmth exhaustion, smoke inhalation and minor accidents. The failure to extinguish or include the hearth led to temperatures exceeding 1,200 levels Fahrenheit in some areas, melting sections of the ship into molten steel that flowed into different components of the ship.

Retired Navy Capt. Lawrence B. Brennan, an adjunct professor at Admiralty and Worldwide Maritime Regulation Fordham Regulation College, stated the prosecution has its work reduce out for it.

“There are questions on identification of the folks within the neighborhood of the hearth and potential causes aside from arson,” he stated in an electronic mail to The Related Press. “Furthermore, the conflagration and firefighting efforts broken, if not destroyed, the crime scene and essential proof.”



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