The man who set fire to USS Miami has a long and debilitating history of anxiety and depression, was homeless for a while as a child and is a “passionate, gentle and caring individual,” according to his defenders.
For these reasons, his attorney wrote in court documents, former Portsmouth Naval Shipyard worker Casey Fury should get 15 years, eight months in prison instead of the 19 years recommended by the U.S. attorney.
Fury, 26, of Portsmouth, N.H., will be in U.S. District Court in Portland today to be sentenced for setting fire to USS Miami at the shipyard in May 2012, causing $450 million in damage. Several weeks later, he set a second fire outside the nuclear submarine.
Fury pleaded guilty to those charges last November. Under the plea deal, Fury agreed to a sentence of between 15 years, eight months and 19 years. The maximum sentence for the crimes is life in prison.
In seeking the 19-year sentence, federal prosecutor Darcie McElwee wrote in her pre-sentence report that Fury’s “intentional fire setting on and around a nuclear submarine was beyond reckless. Frankly, as the court is aware from its view of the Miami, this fire easily could have been fatal.”
Fury said he set the two fires because wanted to leave work early. Defense attorney David Beneman contended Fury was in the throes of depression and was not thinking clearly. McElwee wrote that Fury’s actions were deliberate and precipitated on the fact that he had no more sick or vacation time left.
In his 15-page pre-sentence report, Beneman painted a picture of a troubled young man whose parents divorced when he was 4. As a third-grader, he was homeless for a period after his mother and a boyfriend broke up, Beneman wrote.
At the time of the fires, he wrote, Fury was not getting sufficient benefit from his medications for anxiety, depression and panic attacks. “He never intended for anyone to be hurt or for the first fire to result in the amount of damage it did,” Beneman wrote. “On the dates of the two fires, he suffered from anxiety attacks and ‘just freaked out.'”
The attorney said that several days after his client set the second fire, Fury checked himself into Portsmouth Regional Hospital for mental health treatment. “He was anxious, depressed and having ‘passive suicidal ideation,'” Beneman wrote. After the hospital changed his medication, Fury “reported an immediate change.”
Beneman said his client accepts full responsibility for his actions. In the first Miami blaze, Fury set a rag on fire and placed it on the top bed of one of the state rooms in the mid-level of the submarine. Beneman said tests conducted afterward established that the fire spread rapidly due to the enamel paint on the walls and ceilings “that provided fuel for the fire to expand.”
He said the judge should take into consideration the fact that Fury did not intend for the fire to spread as it did. “Casey lacks coping skills” and shows “hasty and poorly thought out decision making,” the attorney said. “At the same time, he does not display criminal thinking, nor attributes of an arsonist.”
McElwee painted a decidedly different picture of Fury. She wrote that while “the government appreciates” the USS Miami fire might have been set “simply to create a distraction,” Fury escaped the sub and “watched while others risked their lives to battle the fire; all while he stood safely on the pier.” The second fire, she wrote, “demonstrates the true disregard the defendant has for others” because he knew what happened in the first instance, but set a second fire nonetheless.
Fury, she said, “concluded that his personal desires were worth more than the safety of all the people with whom he worked … and more than the property of the United States Navy.” McElwee said the “ripple of consequences” of the USS Miami fire is far reaching. “The damage to Miami and its removal from the fleet, whether temporary or permanent, will continue to affect the United States Navy for years to come,” she wrote.
The Miami has remained at the shipyard since the fire, and money had been found in the Navy budget and appropriated by Congress to repair it. However, that work is uncertain in the wake of recent automatic federal budget cuts. McElwee wrote, “it is anticipated that other submarines will have to go to sea and deploy for more time to account for the absence of the Miami” — time that sailors will not be spending with their families.
Both the defense and the prosecution have the right to withdraw the plea agreement if the court imposes a substantially higher or lower sentence at the hearing today.
Source – Sea Coast online