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Portsmouth man accused of setting fires on USS Miami held without bail

Union Leader Correspondent

August 01. 2012 7:55PM

PORTLAND, Maine - A federal judge ordered the man charged with starting two fires on and around the USS Miami held until his trial due to his poor judgment and disregard for the safety of others.

Casey James Fury, 24, of Portsmouth, who faces two counts of arson, appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge John H. Rich III in U.S. District Court Wednesday morning.

Fury, who worked as a civilian painter at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard for the past two years, waived his right to a probable cause hearing before arguments began about his potential release, since he has been held since his arrest July 20.

'There's no question the nature of the offense in this case is the most grave order,' Rich said, referring to the weight of evidence against Fury, who confessed to setting a four-alarm fire aboard the nuclear submarine on May 23, a second fire in the dry dock on June 12, and pulling a fire alarm on June 19.

The first fire, which took 12 hours to extinguish, caused an estimated $400 million in damage to the Los Angeles class attack submarine, which has been in dry dock since March. The fire also injured seven firefighters and sailors, including Navy Lt. Richard McNunn, the Miami's operations officer, who recalled his experience in trying to save the submarine.

'On May 23, I nearly died in a fire,' McNunn said, adding he suffered broken ribs, a lung puncture, and a knee injury after falling into a large hole in the sub's floor while attempting to locate the source of the fire.

Despite his injuries, McNunn said he climbed a two-story ladder once he realized the smoke-filled darkness would prevent a rescue team from extracting him before the tank he wore ran out of air.

McNunn, who returned to duty while recovering from his injuries, said he continues to have trouble walking, laying down, and fulfilling all of his responsibilities.

'My issues are only a small factor of the damage that was caused,' McNunn said, adding he was only one of the victims from the fire, which affects fellow crew members, shipyard employees, and 'every taxpayer in this country is a victim on this.'

Fury's attorney, David Beneman, argued he should be released on bail since he has cooperated with the investigation by confessing to setting the two fires and pulling a fire alarm.

'He didn't think through the consequences of his actions,' Beneman said, comparing the incident to the middle-school student who pulls a fire alarm 'to escape an immediate problem,' like a test.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Darcie McElwee argued that Fury should remain in custody as there are no bail conditions which can be imposed to ensure he is not a danger to the community.

'The second fire tells the whole story,' McElwee said, arguing that Fury lit the fires after he became anxious and wanted to leave work, but felt he would not be able to do so.

'He had to go to drastic, crazy lengths just to go home,' McElwee said, adding that Fury chose to place his own needs over the safety of others.

McElwee said Fury was previously convicted of operating under the influence in 2009 and possession of marijuana. She added that he was arrested on charges of driving while intoxicated on June 14 - two days after setting the second fire in the dry dock.

Gregory Giblin, who works as a U.S. probation officer, said he believed Fury should be released on bail with the conditions he remain in contact with his probation officer, limit his travel to New Hampshire and Maine, find a job, be tested for drugs and alcohol, undergo counseling, and report any contact with law enforcement.

In the pretrial report, Giblin said he did not recommend Fury be electronically monitored, have a curfew or be under home arrest. He added he feels the other conditions would be enough.

Fury's father, James, and his stepmother, Margaret, were willing to have him live with them in Elliot. While they knew about his DWIs, they did not think Fury had a drinking problem and both were surprised to learn of his confession.

Nonetheless, they were willing to serve as third-party custodians, which especially involves reporting violations of bail conditions.

After close to three hours of arguments, testimony and written statements, Rich said while Fury certainly saw the consequences of his actions, he disregarded them when he started the second smaller fire outside the vessel.

Both Fury and members of his family were disappointed by the decision, but declined to comment on the matter.

While the Miami could be repaired at the shipyard, the Navy has not determined whether the $900 million submarine would be taken out of service or not.

The investigation is being conducted by members of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service with assistance from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

A criminal complaint is merely an accusation, and a defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law. If convicted of either charge, Fury faces a maximum sentence of life in prison, a fine not to exceed $250,000 and restitution.

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