SAN DIEGO — The defense attorneys for seaman Ryan Sawyer Mays launched into their witnesses Monday, hoping to create possible doubt in the Navy arson case against the 21-year-old sailor.
Prosecutors say Mays is responsible for burning down the USS Bonhomme Richard after failing out of Navy SEAL training. Defense attorneys spent the day attacking the eyewitness testimony who claims he saw Mays in coveralls heading into the area where the fire’s origin was identified. Attorneys for Mays produced three witnesses who testified Mays was not wearing coveralls on July 12, 2020 but was wearing his type IIIs, which are the camouflage-style uniform.
“This was July 2020, so every sailor’s wearing a mask, they wear a cover, a hat when they’re in uninform, on duty. So, the uniform that this person, that this witness says he saw going down there, becomes very important, especially if you have contradicting narratives of what the accused was wearing that morning,” said Andrew Dyer, military reporter for the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Defense attorneys also tried to highlight the shifting story of the Navy prosecutor’s primary witness.
“He reported to NCIS that he didn’t recognize the individual that he saw go down there and didn’t get a good look at him. The next day when he was interviewed by NCIS, he told NCIS he was fairly sure that it was seaman Mays,” said Gary Barthel, a former attorney for Mays.
Supporters of Mays are hoping to sew enough doubt to let the sailor free. This court martial is a bench trial, meaning this case will come down to a single judge to determine a verdict.
If convicted, Mays faces life in prison. The trial continues Tuesday and is expected to finish on Wednesday.