The trial for a junior sailor charged with starting the fire that eventually destroyed the amphibious assault ship Bonhomme Richard in 2020 is scheduled to run from Sept. 19 to Sept. 30, U.S. 3rd Fleet announced this week.

The head of the San Diego-based command, Vice Adm. Steve Koehler, opted to refer charges against Seaman Recruit Ryan Sawyer Mays in February, following an Article 32 hearing that weighed the evidence against the sailor.

Mays is charged with aggravated arson and willful hazarding of a vessel in connection to the July 12, 2020, fire, which burned for days in San Diego, led the Navy to scrap the $1.2 billion flattop and exposed systemic ship firefighting failures at all levels.

Gary Barthel, Mays’ civilian defense attorney, said at the time of the referral of charges that his client continues to maintain his innocence.

Barthel also alleged in February that the legal officer who oversaw the Article 32 hearing recommended to Koehler that the case not go to court-martial, and that the Navy is scapegoating Mays due to the high-profile nature of the Bonhomme Richard disaster.

Third Fleet spokesman Cmdr. Sean Robertson said Koehler made his decision after considering the entirety of the preliminary hearing report but declined to discuss specifics since the case is ongoing.

Geoff is the editor of Navy Times, but he still loves writing stories. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at

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