Navy arson court martial moves forward
The sailor accused of setting fire to the USS Bonhomme Richard in July 2020 was in a military court Thursday.
Seaman Apprentice Ryan Sawyer Mays was arraigned at Naval Base San Diego on charges of aggravated arson and hazarding a vessel.
Mays faces court martial after the admiral in charge of the 3rd Fleet, Vice Admiral Stephen T. Koehler, overruled a Navy hearing officer, Capt. Angela Tang, who recommended that the case not go to trial.
“She does not believe that the evidence supports the case going to trial because she does not believe the government will be able to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt,” said Gary Barthel, the attorney who represented Mays during hearings in December.
Tang found that there was enough evidence to meet the lower standard of probable cause to allow the case to move forward, but not enough to convict Mays in court.
That report will not be admissible during Mays’ upcoming court martial. In most cases, military justice gives a commander final say in court proceedings, though Congress recently removed that power from commanders in cases involving sexual assault.
The USS Bonhomme Richard was declared a $1.2 billion loss.
The fire, which began on July 21, 2020, burned out of control for five days on the San Diego waterfront. Several Naval investigations have determined that the fire should not have been allowed to spread.
A group of Navy officers face a separate disciplinary process.
If Mays is convicted of both charges, he faces up to a life sentence. He is expected to go on trail by late summer.