Military Judge Acquits Sailor Of Setting Fire That Destroyed Amphibious Assault Ship

Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christina Ross/U.S. Navy via Getty Images

Taylor Giles Contributor
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A military judge acquitted a Navy sailor on Friday of charges stemming from a fire that destroyed the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard in July 2020.

Ryan Mays, 21, was acquitted by a military judge on charges of arson and willful hazarding of a vessel after a nine-day trial, according to The Los Angeles Times and the Associated Press.

“I can say that the past two years have been the hardest two years of my entire life as a young man,” Mays told reporters Monday, according to AP. “I’ve lost time with my friends. I’ve lost friends. I’ve lost time with family, and my entire Navy career was ruined. I am looking forward to starting over.”

Mays was accused of setting cardboard boxes on fire July 12, 2020, while the ship was going through maintenance in San Diego, AP reported. Prosecutors claimed Mays was angry because he failed to become a Navy SEAL. (RELATED: US Navy Charges Sailor In Fire On USS Bonhomme Richard)

Captain Jason Jones, the prosecutor, told the judge that the Navy will lose the ship due to the fire, NPR reported. Jones also acknowledged last year that the fire was preventable and unacceptable.

“That sucker punch from behind, that’s what the Navy could have never prevented,” Jones said. Defense attorneys suggested alternative causes for the fire, arguing that that naval investigators jumped to conclusions in charging Mays.

The Navy also accused 36 other crew members of conduct leading or contributing to the fire.