Navy prosecutors have alleged that a sailor charged with setting the fire that destroyed the USS Bonhomme Richard last year was “disgruntled” after dropping out of Navy Seal training.
Prosecutor Commander Richard Federico alleged in court on Monday that text messages show Seaman Apprentice Ryan Sawyer Mays lied to family, friends and investigators about why he left Seal training and that he was angry about being reassigned to the Bonhomme Richard. They also alleged he used foul language with a superior days before the blaze.
Mays has denied igniting the amphibious assault ship that burned for nearly five days and injured dozens aboard. His defence lawyers say there is no physical evidence connecting him to the blaze.
Defence attorneys said fellow sailors considered Mays “arrogant” because he had come from Seal training.
The junior sailor was charged with aggravated arson and the wilful hazarding of a vessel over the fire that was the US’s worst non-combat warship blaze in recent memory.
The hearing will determine whether there is enough evidence to proceed with a military trial. Scheduled to testify on Tuesday is a key witness for the government, a crew member who reported seeing Mays go down to the ship’s lower storage area where investigators say cardboard boxes were ignited.
약 160 sailors and officers were on board when the fire started on the 840ft (256-metre) vessel, which had been docked at Naval Base San Diego while undergoing a two-year, $250m (£189m) upgrade.
이상 60 sailors and civilians were treated for minor injuries, heat exhaustion and smoke inhalation. Left with extensive structural, electrical and mechanical damage, the billion-dollar ship was scrapped.
Defence attorney Gary Barthel said no DNA linked to Mays was found at the scene and he questioned why investigators concluded Mays did it just because they found a lighter among his belongings. “Were there other individuals on the ship with lighters?“ Barthel asked the lead fire investigator for the Navy, who agreed there likely were.
Navy prosecutors argued the case was carefully investigated. They have collected more than 28,000 pages of material and hours of video to build their case.
Defence lawyers objected to the hearing, saying they were not given enough time to review the evidence against Mays.
Dozens of Navy officials, including several admirals, face disciplinary action for systematic failures that investigators said prevented the blaze from being put out sooner, according to investigators.