Halibut Cove woman in viral seaplane incident agrees to plea

Marion Tillion Beck intends to plead guilty to midsemeanor gross negligent operation of a vessel

A woman accused of using her boat to harass a chartered floatplane as it was taxiing through Halibut Cove last year intends to plead guilty to misdemeanor gross negligent operation of a vessel, according to documents filed Nov. 1 in U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska.

Marian Tillion Beck, 70, is seeking one-year probation and a $25,000 fine, according to a sentencing memorandum filed by Beck’s attorney, Michelle Nesbett.

Beck, the owner of the Saltry restaurant and a daughter of the late Halibut Cove patriarch Clem Tillion, has also agreed to relinquish her Master-Captain’s License to the U.S. Coast Guard.

According to Nesbett’s memo, Beck has agreed to plead guilty to the misdemeanor charge, with prosecutors dropping a felony charge of attempted destruction of an aircraft.

The case stems from an Aug. 23, 2022, incident, captured on video and widely circulated on social media, in which Beck is seen maneuvering her boat, the M/V Silver Bullet, in front of a floatplane as it taxied past the Saltry, throwing up a large wake.

In the memo, Nesbett describes a history of community concerns over aircraft accidents in the area, which resulted in a voluntary agreement to limit airplane traffic during certain hours.

On the day of the incident, according to the memo, Beck was responding to what she believed were violations of the community’s agreed-upon rules for moving floatplanes through the waterway.

“She was so upset that she got into her boat and chased after the pilot to send him a message that he was violating the community regulations and that she and the community were upset about it,” Nesbett wrote.

In its own sentencing memorandum, filed Nov. 1, the U.S. attorney’s office requests five years probation and a $25,000 fine.

The prosecution described the seriousness of the case, saying that Beck’s actions “put several people in harm’s way.”

“As a licensed mariner, her reckless behavior is even more reprehensible, given that she has extensive knowledge and training of vessel traffic and vessel safety regulations, which she willfully disregarded. A licensed captain, acting with due care under the same circumstances, would not have intentionally cut across the path of the seaplane multiple times, and would know to give way to the outbound craft,” prosecutors wrote.

They also said the “overwhelmingly negative” public reaction to the video, which was posted online, underlines the seriousness of the case.

A sentencing hearing originally set for Nov. 8 was moved to Jan. 23, 2024.

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