Sailor Charged for Destruction of Navy Warship

Sailor Charged for Destruction of Navy Warship

( – On July 12, 2020, a fire broke out on the USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6), a United States Navy and amphibious assault ship, while it was docked at Navy Station San Diego being retrofitted as a “mini-aircraft carrier.” Over the next four days, Naval and civilian firefighters fought to douse the flames. There were no major injuries when all was said and done, but the $2.5 to $3 billion of estimated damage was enough for the Navy to decommission the vessel.

Now, the USN has announced charges against an unnamed male seaman apprentice under Articles 110 and 126 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). The first charge is “Improper Hazarding of Vessel or Aircraft,” and if a court-martial finds it a willful rather than a negligent act, the maximum sentence is death — or any other punishment the panel may deem appropriate.

Article 126, “Arson; Burning with Intent to Defraud,” has several different subsections that look at intent and whether or not the arsonist’s target was inhabited. The possible penalties range from dishonorable discharge and forfeiture of all pay and allowances up to 10 to 25 years of confinement, depending on the specific subset of charges.

The next step for the unnamed sailor is an Article 32 hearing in front of an impartial officer to determine if enough evidence exists to convene a court-martial — akin to a grand jury indictment process in the civilian court system. According to the sailor’s lawyer, he’s adamant he is innocent of all charges. Currently, he’s not being held in the brig and is on active duty in a shore-based position.

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