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Man Who Set Fire to Nuclear Sub at Maine Shipyard Gets 17 Years
03/15/2013   Reported By: Patty B. Wight

The man who admitted he set fire to a nuclear submarine at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard last spring was sentenced in federal court today. Casey James Fury was ordered to serve just over 17 years in prison and pay $400 million in restitution. Patty Wight reports.

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Twenty-five-year-old Casey Fury was a painter working on the U.S.S. Miami on May 23 of last year, when he started feeling anxious and decided he wanted to leave work early. Court records say - and prosecutors acknowledge - that Casey struggles with anxiety and depression. And so, he set fire to a bag of cotton rags. The fire quickly turned into what shipyard firefighter Eric Hardy says is the worst fire he's ever seen.

"I guess the best way to explain it to anybody, is to get yourself a woodstove. Light a fire in the woodstove, throw a bunch of plastics, a bunch of paint, a bunch of wood in there. And just let it go. And then climb down the chimney and try putting it out," Hardy says.

Hardy says it's sheer luck that no one died while fighting the fire, though five firefighters were injured, some with burns, others, like Hardy, with physical injuries that leave him in daily pain. Two dozen fire departments, some from as far away as Connecticut, came to battle the blaze that took 12 hours to extinguish and caused $450 million worth of damage to the sub.

A few weeks later in June, Fury set another fire. This time, in the dry dock area below the Miami. It was extinguished quickly, but U.S. Attorney Tom Delahanty says it was no less serious. "The second fire was especially troubling and showed a callous disregard for the safety of others," Delahanty says.

U.S. Attorneys argued during sentencing that it showed the mark of an arsonist and the potential for future crimes. They asked for the maximum sentence - just over 19 years in prison - to demonstrate the severe consequences to damaging a U.S. asset.

Navy Rear Adm. Richard Breckenridge says the cost of taking a front line attack submarine out of inventory and tying up precious dry dock space extends beyond the hundreds of millions of dollars in damage.

"This is not trivial," Breckenridge says. "The demand for submarines around the globe today for our nation's security, as well as global stability, cannot be overstated."

Casey James Fury's defense lawyer David Beneman told the judge that the case presents a dilemma society has faced for years - how to factor mental problems into criminal conduct. He pointed out that criminal behavior typically escalates. But Fury has no previous history of engaging in such conduct.

Beneman asked for the minimum sentence of 15 years. Fury himself addressed the court, saying he was truly remorseful and never intended to cause so much damage. When delivering Fury's sentence, Judge George Singal took the middle ground: 205 months.

"We are satisfied that Judge Singal applied the appropriate standard and judicial balance in this case," Attorney Tom Delahanty says.

Delahanty says 17 years in prison is a long time. Fury will pay monthly restitution fees for the rest of his life, and will be 42 years old when he's released. Both his defense lawyer and his family declined to comment on the case.


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