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Sailor found not guilty of setting fire that destroyed ship

FILE - US Navy sailor Ryan Sawyer Mays walks past reporters at Naval Base San Diego before entering a Navy courtroom, Aug. 17, 2022, in San Diego. No one disputes that the Navy shares blame for the loss of the USS Bonhomme Richard, the $1.2 billion amphibious assault ship that was consumed by flames in San Diego in July 2020 as officers failed to respond quickly and its crew struggled with broken equipment. But none of that would not have happened, according to prosecution closing arguments, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, without Ryan Sawyer Mays. (AP Photo/Julie Watson, File)


A Navy judge has ruled a sailor was not guilty of setting a fire that destroyed the USS Bonhomme Richard in San Diego in 2020.

The ruling Friday came after a nine-day trial at Naval Base San Diego.

“Seaman Recruit Mays was found not guilty on the charges of willful hazarding of a vessel and aggravated arson. The Navy is committed to upholding the principles of due process and a fair trial,” said Lt. Samuel R. Boyle, spokesman for U.S 3rd Fleet.

Prosecutors charged then-19-year-old Ryan Sawyer Mays with arson and the willful hazarding of a ship and accused him of igniting cardboard boxes in a lower vehicle storage area.

There is no physical evidence, however, tying Mays to the fire on the ship, which was docked and undergoing maintenance at that time.

A Navy report last year concluded the fire that destroyed the $1.2 billion amphibious assault ship was preventable and unacceptable and that there were lapses in training, coordination, communications, fire preparedness, equipment maintenance and overall command and control.

More than 20 senior officers and sailor were disciplined in connection with the incident.

Elliot Spagat, The Associated Press