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Sailor acquitted of setting fire to the USS Bonhomme Richard

 September 30, 2022 at 1:18 PM PDT

S1: The sailor accused of arson in the Bonhomme Richard fire is acquitted.

S2: You could really tell how overcome he was with relief.

S1: I'm Jade Hindman. This is KPBS midday edition. New legislation could remove the red tape around researching marijuana for medical use.

S3: It would be great to understand better. What should I be giving you ? What should your dosage be ? So we know a lot of it anecdotally. But if we could have some significant kind of studies , we could learn a lot more.

S1: And look at what's happening around town on the art scene this weekend. That's ahead on Midday Edition. A sailor accused of setting a fire that destroyed a $1.2 billion naval warship in 2020 has been acquitted by a military judge this morning. 21 year old sailor Ryan Sawyer Mase , had been charged with arson and wilful hazarding and was facing a possible life sentence in the case. I'm joined now by San Diego Union-Tribune military reporter Andrew Dyer , who has been covering this trial. Andrew , welcome. Hello.

S2: Hello. Thanks for having me.

S1: So you were in the courtroom when the verdict was read. Tell us about that moment.

S2: Well , it was clearly a lot of anticipation and anxiety. We expected the judge to come in right at nine. It took him about 15 minutes or so to actually come in to read the verdict. And , you know , everybody just on the edge of their seat when he read the verdict and he said , you know , on both counts , you know , not guilty , Mays just completely broke down and was so I mean , you could really tell how overcome he was with with relief. And he then , you know , turned and came into the gallery and found his mother and embraced her for for a long moment. Hmm.

S1: Hmm.

S2: So we were still in the throes of pandemic time. And yeah , Sunday morning , you know , you know , smoke started coming out of the ship very early , right around 8 a.m. or just after 8 a.m.. And subsequent investigations have shown that , you know , the sailors on board federal fire. And for a little while , the San Diego fire really struggled to get to the blaze at its point of origin and extinguish it. In fact , by the time any firefighting agent in this case water was put on flames , it was already too late. And and the fire was out of control very shortly after that. The ship was evacuated because the pressure from the heat led to an explosion. And the fire just basically burned itself out over the next four days. Wow.

S1: Wow.

S2: You know , the ship was destroyed. Your crime scene is completely obliterated and burned. So for physical evidence , there just really wasn't much. They were relying on an eyewitness account from a sailor who was on watch near the area where the fire began. He said that he saw Mays walking down the ramp into the lower vehicle storage area just before about 20 minutes before the first signs of smoke. There were some problems with the eyewitness account. He initially did not tell investigators from NCIS and the Bureau of Alcohol , Tobacco and Firearms that he hadn't seen Mays. He said he'd seen somebody didn't know who they were. Like I said , this was covered. Everybody , everybody's wearing a mask on board. But throughout the course of the investigation and subsequent interviews with the sailor , this witness himself fell under suspicion. And , you know , he eventually gave them that name of Mays , and it took off from there.

S1: And Ryan Mays spoke after being acquitted.

S2: You know , he said that this cost him his Navy career and he is just looking forward to picking up the pieces and starting his life over again.


S2: They did not come out and address media. I feel like , you know , after sitting through the last two weeks of trial , they put on the case that they had you know , they had their experts that determined it was arson. They had their witness that saw me says they saw Mays walking down that ramp. They had other witnesses testified that Mays hated the Navy. This was their motive , that he had failed out of the Navy SEAL training at Bugs in Coronado. And he was so mad about being a deck sailor on the ship that he he lit it on fire. But beyond that , there just wasn't anything else tying Mays to the fire. There were no. Searches on his phone or computer , like there was no evidence of , like , planning. There was just none of that. It was almost entirely a circumstantial case. Now , the defense had their own eyewitness who said she saw a different sailor running from the scene of where the person is thought to have began. So it was really a case of one witness versus the other. And when you're trying to convict somebody , you've got to prove your case beyond a reasonable doubt. They thought they had , but clearly a judge disagreed.

S1: I've been speaking with Andrew Dyer , military reporter for the San Diego Union-Tribune. Andrew , thank you very much.

S2: Thank you.

S1: San Diego Congressman Scott Peters is co-sponsoring a bill that would set a national research agenda for studying marijuana. It would also allow researchers to buy and test the many products found in legal cannabis shops. KPBS science and technology reporter Thomas Fudge has the story.

S4: Lincoln Fish is the founder and CEO of Outgo , a marijuana shop in unincorporated El Cajon , where he legally sells a wide variety of pot products. He says most people still come to buy Bud so they can roll their own joints. But there's a lot more to choose from.

S3: So these are pre-rolls that we make on site. But these are stronger because this is what's called an infused pre-roll. So we make the we put the bud on the inside , but then we take the oil that is extracted from the plant. And the key , which is the kind of powdery substance that comes off and we roll it in the kit.

S4: Then there are topicals , vapes , and what are called tinctures , a liquid infused with cannabis that's often used as medicine. The effects of the many products that outcome may be known to the people who use them , but little is known about how they are likely to affect most people or why they work the way they do. That's because these products cannot be legally studied due to federal law , which calls marijuana a Schedule one narcotic. Congressman Scott Peters has sponsored a bill called the Dank Act. It would , quote , shield researchers from legal sanctions for acquiring and testing state legal cannabis products. Peters says the bill would also create new priorities for studying marijuana products.

S5: So the idea behind this act is to develop a national research agenda so we can measure safety , efficacy , long term effects , maybe develop a sobriety test. All of those things need to happen. This bill will get that going.

S4: The Dank Act would establish ten marijuana research centers around the country. One of them would almost certainly be at UC San Diego. Psychiatry professor Igor Grant is the director of UCSD Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research. UCSD has been studying marijuana for two decades. But Grant says the explosion of the marijuana industry in states where it's legal has created many new questions.

S2: For example , in California , people are getting products with many different strengths of THC. They're also taking them not necessarily by smoking a joint , but by vaporizing in some other way or maybe taking it by mouth. We know very little about how these products really are absorbed into the body , metabolized and work.

S4: THC is the chemical in pot that makes you high. It also has some proven medicinal effects. One effect of cannabis is pain relief. At a news conference late last month , Mark Wallace , professor of anesthesiology at UCSD , spoke on the topic. He said the correct use of cannabis by people with chronic pain has shown impressive results.

S5: We were seeing reductions in pain reduction in opioids and even elimination of opioids in the patients , and this was resulting in pain relief , improve sleep , improve function.

S4: Also at that press conference was Colin Wells , an Afghan war veteran who says cannabis got him off of opioids. I had a.

S2: Crippling opiate addiction for most of my life , compounded.

S5: By my traumas in Afghanistan. Cannabis , finally after decades.

S2: Empowered me with the with the ability to overcome.

S5: My addiction.

S4: So far , there is no known opposition to Pieters Dank Act , which he calls bipartisan , as it has a Republican co-sponsor. Back at the Alco Cannabis shop , Lincoln Fish has plenty of advice for what kind of cannabis works , for what ailments , but he admits he doesn't know why it works.

S3: It would be great to understand better. What should I be giving you ? What should your dosage be ? So we know a lot of it anecdotally , but if we could have some significant large scale , double lined kind of studies , we could learn a lot more.

S4: For now , marijuana use for medical research all comes from the same federally approved farm in Mississippi. Some pot venders say the quality of that marijuana is poor way behind the times. And Igor Grant admits that what they get from that Mississippi farm is not geared to what's really going on in the market today. Thomas Fudge , KPBS News.

S1: You're listening to KPBS midday Edition. I'm Jade Hindman. For our weekend preview , we have powerful classical music , installation art , experimental music and a bike tour. Joining me with all the details is KPBS arts producer and editor Julia Dixon Evans. Julia , welcome.

S6: Hi , J. Thanks for having me.

S1: So the San Diego Symphony kicks off their new season this weekend with performances of Verdi's Requiem.

S6: Verdi's Requiem is this choral masterpiece. It's written as a setting , a musical setting of the funeral mass. And I think the most famous movement is also its most powerful. It's kind of dark and stormy. This is the second movement , the disarray or day of wrath. They're performing just that work , though. It is 17 movements and it will be at sundown on Saturday at 630 , then Sunday at five. And both shows are outdoors at the show.

S1: All right. So weeds are at the heart of a new exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Art , San Diego in Balboa Park. Tell us about Grave Grove.

S6: So this exhibition is kind of a whole installation. It's by artists stretched out that taking over the Balboa Park space of the ICA. This is about weeds , and he's using a lot of plants that are traditionally thought of as weeds and unwanted. But prominent is looking at them as metaphors for undervalued people. They're unwanted. So like migrants , immigrants , refugees are outcasts , but they're also able to thrive where other plants cannot. And they're they're hardy. And the plant installations are coupled with these curving and sloping white sculptural backdrops. And those are meant to represent development or the inhospitable places. And the pieces are peppered around the gallery space. And for the plants , the artist worked with Picker Farm and the South Bay to select and grow them. And I open tonight with a reception at 530 and it will be on view through February. So I also think this is going to be one of those exhibitions to see now at the beginning and then catch again later in its run to see what has become of the plants.


S6: They have an RSVP page.

S1: All right. Fantastic. Okay. After the opening reception , the gallery hours are noon to five , Thursday through Saturday each week. And ICA is always free admission. Moving on to some more installation art , this time at La Hoya. Artist Jean Low is Turning Point Gallery into a car dealership. Yes.

S6: Yes. So she's made giant life size replicas of cards out of cardboard and papier maché , including a Hummer EV. So huge. And she paints them in a way that's realistic from far away. But the closer you get , the more it sort of melts away. And you can tell this is all fake. And this is sort of her signature. The space between convincing realism , like a replica of her replica snake between that and this cartoonish parody. And I love the way she sees the style for the exorbitant indulgence , like a Hummer , like new cars. And it's all immersive. So the gallery staff will be on hand acting as car salespeople. And there will also be one of a kind hand-painted furniture and art by Lo's husband , artist Kim McConnell. There is a reception on Saturday from 4 to 6 , and this will all be on view through November 26.

S1: All right. And one more visual art event. This one is literally off the beaten path. Tell us about this Park Sociale bike tour.

S6: So Park Social , as we've talked about before , is a city of San Diego Arts Commission initiative to bring art into San Diego parklands. And what I want to highlight this weekend is Ingram , Ober and Marisol Rendon. It's called in collaboration with the Passer By. It's set in one of the more wild and underused parks in this Park social program. It's Tivoli Regional Park. It's a network of about eight miles of trails connecting the South Bay with the lower Otay Reservoir. And Obama and Rendon wanted to create art for the different communities that use the park , whether they're walkers or wildlife or people who live in encampments there. There's one installation made from invasive pampas grass that's harvested from the area , and there's another that will serve as a sort of temporary blank canvas for graffiti , and that the artist would also see these little assemblages near an encampment in the park , like somebody who lived there was creating their own sculptures out of debris or trash. So one of their sculptures there is going to be kind of a template for that kind of artwork. They're doing a bike tour in the trails on Saturday morning. It begins at 930 at the Otay Valley Regional Park Ranger Station. You can show up then even if you're walking with no bike. And this is all free.

S1: And one more. A special concert presented by Terra's gallery. It's the final tour of the experimental outsider musician known as The Space Lady. Tell us about this concert. Yeah.

S6: Yeah. So the space lady is known as a living outsider legend. And this is her final tour after performing since the 1970s. Her music is very spacey , hence the name , but it's also really lo fi and pared down and just really honest and vulnerable. She's sometimes compared to artists like Daniel Johnston , but her knishes and otherworldly renditions of pop songs. This is Major Tom as recorded in a public park in Santa Fe.

UU: Oh , really ? Oh , dress.

S6: The concerts on Sunday at 8 p.m. at Tango Del Rey and performing with the SpaceX lady is Nailah Hunter. She is an L.A. based experimental harpist and composer. And what I've heard of her work is gorgeous. It's complicated. And she also sings and I will leave you with a song of hers called Black Valhalla. Her description of this composition is kind of an invocation , and I quote , Black people imagine a place where you are safe and exalted.

S1: That is Nyala Hunter's Black Valhalla , who is performing with the SpaceX lady on Sunday at 8 p.m. at Tango Del Rey. For details on these and more arts events or to sign up for Julian's weekly newsletter , go to KPBS Dawgs Arts. I've been speaking with KPBS arts producer and editor Julia Dixon Evans. Julia , thanks.

S6: Thank you , Jade. Have a good weekend.

S1: You too.

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A sailor accused of setting a fire that destroyed a $1.2 billion naval warship in 2020 has been acquitted. Then, San Diego Congressman Scott Peters is co-sponsoring a bill that would set a national research agenda for studying marijuana. And finally in our weekend preview, we have powerful classical music, installation art, experimental music and a bike tour.