During the Mostly Peaceful Protests of 2020, the most catastrophic disaster in the United States was the complete destruction of the U.S.S. Bonhomme Richard, a small aircraft carrier, by fire in San Diego harbor, which cost taxpayers several billion dollars.
iSteve commenter Jenner Ickham Errican writes:
Speaking of seamen, as mentioned in the previous thread, the White man, Ryan Mays, originally accused of setting the Bonhomme Richard fire, has been acquitted. A Black man, Elijah McGovern, was also an intial suspect but was inexplicably not investigated further despite there being much stronger circumstantial evidence he was the one.
Back when Mays was charged, Steve wrote:
The article goes into the case against Mays in depth, which so far doesn’t sound overwhelming by the standards of reasonable doubt in a civilian courtroom, but perhaps it is by the standards of military justice (…) maybe this guy is a dick with a chaotic personality whom everybody hates for good reasons, but may not, technically speaking, have done it.
It could be worse than mere incompetence: It looks like the Navy could have intentionally framed White suspect Mays for racial reasons. Because the excuses given for not going after the real suspect are ridiculous:
Investigators say the fire began July 12, 2020, around 8 a.m. in the ship’s lower vehicle storage area, or “lower V.”
Miya Polion, a former petty officer 3rd class on the Bonhomme Richard, testified Tuesday she saw a tall, dark-skinned sailor in blue coveralls running from the lower V ramp, across the upper vehicle storage area and up the ramp to the ship’s hangar bay just after 8 a.m. Mays is White.
“I never stopped looking at him because it was kind of weird to be running on the ship,” Polion said during testimony Tuesday. She reported this to NCIS when investigators began searching for witnesses, she said.
Who is NCIS Special Agent Maya Kamat?
NCIS Special Agent Maya Kamat investigated the other sailor until he left he Navy in the spring of 2021, she said, which is when investigators re-focused on Mays.
During questioning, Kamat said the sailor explained the Google searches found on his phone were related to a novel he was writing with a second man about a dragon living on a ship. Kamat said she saw the manuscript for the novel and a conversation about the story on the messaging app Discord with the sailor’s writing partner.
She also said the sailor declined to put investigators in touch with his writing partner and they did not pursue the issue further.
In regards to the testimony from eyewitness Velasco, defense attorneys grilled Velasco on the stand about why it took him so long to identify Mays and why his story had changed since fingering Mays since the fire.
While on the stand, Velasco said that at first he wasn’t sure it was Mays and he didn’t want to name any names when he was first asked about what he witnessed that day.
Velasco said it wasn’t until his superior Betz said Mays liked to wear the same coveralls that Velasco said the person he saw the day of the fire was wearing.
Velasco also admitted that he told others that he thought the fire was likely caused by electrical issues and that he wasn’t sure that it was Mays at first.
Velasco said special agents “pressured” him during the investigation and that he was “scared” during the dozen or so interviews.
“Didn’t you tell investigators that you were not sure that the person you saw was white,” asked Mays’ defense attorney.
“Yes, sir,” testified Velasco.
In an unusual turn, it was the defense that called the Navy’s top special agent in charge of the investigation to the stand.
The agent, Maya Kamat, testified that agents had another suspect in the days and weeks after the fire.
That suspect, “Sailor E.M.,” [real name: Elijah McGovern, see USNI article below] was seen “sprinting” from the Lower V at around 8:03 the morning of the fire.
Special Agent Kamat testified that she interviewed E.M. – CBS 8 is not using the sailor’s real name due to the fact that he was never charged with the crime – and that she found that he had searched the internet 15 minutes before the fire for “heat scales, fire white.”
When asked about the Google search, E.M. told Kamat that he was doing research for a novel he was writing about fire-breathing dragons. Kamat testified that she read portions of his novel and it started on a burnt-down warship named the “TB3R.”
Kamat also testified that during a search of E.M.’s phone, investigators found a diagram on the phone that he drew a year prior depicting three phases of a fire.
Adding to it, the defense called a handwriting expert who examined writing on a portable toilet that was on the pier next to the Bonhomme Richard. The message, “I lit the ship on fire,” was found to have similarities with handwriting samples from E.M.. Mays on the other hand was ruled out from writing the message because he was in the brig when the handwriting was found.
Despite the leads, Kamat testified that the Navy’s investigation into E.M. stopped after he was discharged from the Navy and it no longer had jurisdiction. Kamat also testified that E.M. was ruled out as a suspect.
According to Mays’s defense team consultant, Gary Barthel, the U.S. Attorney’s Office decided against pursuing criminal charges against suspect E.M., leaving the Navy without the authority to continue its investigation.
In response, the Navy opted to pursue its case against Mays.