Monday, August 10, 2015
Arsonist who destroyed $400 million U.S. sub loses appeal
Fire erupts on the USS Miami attack submarine in 2012, causing it to be scrapped.
Elizabeth Dinan, Seacoast Online
8 August 2015
PORTLAND, MAINE — A Portsmouth High School graduate, who started a fire that destroyed a $400 million nuclear submarine, lost an appeal to the U.S. District Court of Maine and has filed notice that he'll next appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals.
A self-described former PHS "band geek," Casey Fury is serving a 17-year prison sentence and owes the federal government $400 million for lighting the fire that ravaged USS Miami. The fire burned for 12 hours inside the sub and led to its being scrapped. Firefighters responded from 24 different departments and most had never been inside a submarine before, according to court records. Five of the firefighters were injured.
Fury pleaded guilty to two counts of arson, but told the Portsmouth Herald in May that he only did so under the threat of a life sentence. He said he uncovered new evidence in the form of an anonymous letter and petitioned the federal court, without a lawyer, for a sentence reduction. He argued that his mental health and addiction problems weren't fully considered when he admitted to burning the sub and later lighting a second, smaller fire.
"I don't believe I'm responsible," Fury, 27, said during a May phone interview from the federal prison in Fort Dix, N.J. "I don't believe I did it. I don't remember doing it."
Fury's appeal was denied by federal Judge George Singal, who adopted the recommendation of U.S. District Court Magistrate John Nivison. The magistrate wrote in an order that by the time Fury pleaded guilty to setting the two fires, he had admitted to the crimes and "his admissions were corroborated by other evidence from the fire investigation." Singal found Fury failed to prove his allegation of inadequate legal counsel, or that the anonymous letter could exonerate him. Court records show Fury filed a notice of appeal of that ruling.
Fury was a civilian worker at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, doing a job called "needle gunning," painting and sandblasting, while wearing a Tyvek protective suit, earplugs and a respirator, in the tight confines of submarines. Federal court records report Fury was on the job for only 11 days when he began receiving employee assistance services for anxiety, panic attacks and depression.
He said he sought treatment and was prescribed medications, which he sometimes mixed with alcohol and other prescription drugs he bought from co-workers on the grounds of the federal shipyard.
The day of the submarine fire, May 23, 2012, Fury was working in the Miami's torpedo room and went up to a mid-ship bunk room for better cellphone reception to text his ex-girlfriend and smoke a cigarette, according to court testimony. "Out of the blue," his public defender is quoted, Fury lit a nearby bag of rags on fire, the flames spread to the sub's oil-based paint "and turned this into a conflagration."
Fury said he stayed in the area of the fire until the next morning, sometimes fetching water and dry T-shirts for the firefighters, who later described the firefighting effort as like going down a chimney into a woodstove. Federal prosecutor Darcie McElwee said during Fury's sentencing hearing that he "watched while others risked their lives to battle the fire, all while he stood safely on the pier."
Fury later lit another small fire "on the dry dock blocks on which Miami rests" by igniting alcohol wipes, federal prosecutors said. Fury did so "to be sent home early from work," and the sub was again evacuated and there was little to no damage, court records state.