Coronavirus fears fuel assault on Bering Sea fishing boat, federal prosecutors charge

Fishing trawlers lined up in Dutch Harbor, on Sep. 24, 2013, in Unalaska, Alaska.
Fishing trawlers lined up in Dutch Harbor, on Sep. 24, 2013, in Unalaska.(Creative Commons photo by James Brooks)

Federal prosecutors have charged a worker on a Bering Sea factory fishing boat with assault after he allegedly broke the eye socket of another person who criticized him for serving food without gloves during the coronavirus pandemic.

Prosecutors say Maurice Young was a housekeeper and galley assistant on the 235-foot SeaFreeze America, which has about 65 crew members and is homeported in Seattle. At the time of the alleged assault, on Monday, the ship was underway about 120 miles east of the Pribilof Islands.

A day earlier, the victim — a processor on the vessel — criticized Young “for serving food without gloves,” prosecutors said in a court filing.

“The victim noted his concerns about the virus to the defendant,” the filing said.

The disagreement escalated, and Young suggested to the processing worker that they fight, though the worker declined, the filing said. Then, Young told a witness that it might be Young’s last day on the boat “because he planned to attack the victim,” prosecutors said.

The next day, Young approached the victim from behind and struck him in the face, then continued attacking him until a bystander pulled him off, prosecutors allege.

The victim was taken on another fishing boat to Dutch Harbor, the major fishing port in the Aleutian Islands. He was then flown to Anchorage for hospitalization and surgery for a broken orbital bone, the charging document said.

Prosecutors are charging Young with a single misdemeanor count of “assault within special maritime and territorial jurisdiction.” He’s being charged in Alaska, with an initial hearing set for June 8.

Prosecutors declined to comment. United States Seafoods, which owns the SeaFreeze America, declined to comment. Young does not appear to have hired an attorney and could not be reached.

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