Justice and a California sailor's death


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It easily could have been one of us. A Sheriff's deputy who was driving his cigarette boat way to fast for his available visibility killed a sailor on Clear Lake in California. The story goes from that to whacko.

Suffice it to say, one of the sailboat passengers is being prosecuted for manslaughter because he was holding the helm of a nearly motionless boat that ended up looking like this:

There is a quite a campaign being accomplished by various media, sailing, and general boating organizations to help bring justice.

The driver of the sailboat could have been you on your Laser.

Currrently there is quite a campaign going to get the California Attorney general involved. here is a link to his facebook page. if you decide to comment there you will have to click on become a supporter to gain access.


Here is one person's brief summary of the case:

Many of you may have heard of the bizarre case of Bismark Dinius, who in 2006 was at the helm of a Sailboat on Clearlake Ca one moonless night when it was rammed from behind by a Outlaw powerboat doing 45mph.

The Powerboat struck the Stb quarter of the Sailboat, crashed through the gunwhale, over the cockpit and dismasted the boat before sailing over it and landing in the water on the other side.

Tradgicaly one of the passengers, Lynn Thornton was killed. Dinius was not the owner of the vessel, he was merely holding the tiller for Lynns fiance who was below.

Unfortunately for Dinius though, the powerboat was driven by the local Off Duty Deputy Sheriff !!!

As all including Dinius on board the Sailboat had been drinking he was subsequently charged with BUI and MANSLAUGHTER. Deputy Sherrif Purdock has never been charged with anything.

There have been many shady happenings in the case including.......

· Conflict of Interest - The Sheriff's office investigated this entire incident. Despite the fact that one of their most senior members was involved in the accident, they never took any steps to eliminate the conflict of interest inherent in them investigating one of their own.

· Compromised "Independent" Investigators - early in the investigation, Sheriff Mitchell brought in Lt Charles Slabaugh from Sacremento County to "supervise" the invistigation. However, as Slabaugh later testified in open court, he was directed by the Lake County Sheriff's office to not conduct any interviews, other than Russell Perdock. In effect, the "independent" investigator was not independent at all, and based his conclusions primarily on Perdock's story. 

"Slabaugh stated that the conclusions made in his reports to the District Attorney's Office and in earlier testimony were based on an interview with Russ Perdock. His conclusions didn't take into account any direct information from anyone on shore or in boats in the near vicinity of the collision, nor those aboard the sailboat. Slabbaugh also indicated that he made no effort to interview several of these potential witnesses." (Lake County News ).

· Conflict of Interest - James Beland of the Sheriff's office testified that the evening of the accident, he drove around with Perdock for more than an hour before taking him home. Beland couldn't remember what they talked about, but he was fairly certain they didn't talk about the accident. Why was Perdock not interviewed immediately following the accident?

· Conflict of Interest - Judge Robert Crone (now retired), sat on the bench when Dinius' attorney made a motion to have the Lake County DA's office removed from prosecuting the case. Judge Crone had a personal connection to this case and the involved parties, having overseen Perdock's wedding to his wife some 15 to 18 years earlier. This represents a clear conflict of interest that Judge Crone recognized when he recused himself from presiding during Perdock's divorce. Despite this existing conflict of interest, Judge Crone did not recuse himself from ruling on the motion in Dinius' case, and in fact ruled against Dinius.

· Contradictory Testimony - A significant claim in the DA's case is that the sail boat was not displaying required navigation lights, a claim that is supported by the California Department of Justice. The defense has produced an expert witness that contradicts the DA’s claim. Dan Noyes, a television reporter who investigated the story for ABC news in San Francisco, identified nine people on the sailboat or on shore who said they had seen the sailboat's running lights, cabin lights, or both shortly before the collision. But when he told the Lake County District Attorney there were witnesses who had seen the lights on, Noyes was told, "No, they were not." One of the potential witnesses, Doug Jones, told Noyes that when he tried to tell a deputy sheriff that he'd seen the sailboat's lights on, he was told they had already proven there were no lights on. This was at 8:00 a.m. on the morning after the accident. He told Noyes that the deputy refused to take his statement.

· Contradictory Testimony - One of the cornerstones of Perdock's testimony is that he had no more than a half of a Coors Light the afternoon of the accident, and that he had been at home that evening prior to taking his boat out. However, 5 witnesses have come forward to offer testimony that Russell Perdock was at Konocti Harbor between 6:00 pm and 9:00 pm the night of the accident. Some of those witnesses will testify that they saw Perdock drinking at both of the two bars at the resort. These witnesses directly contradict Perdock's assertion that he was at home prior to going out on his boat, and that he had not been drinking.

· Contradictory Testimony - Likewise, Perdock's own wife, whom he is now divorced from, has offered testimony that Perdock left the house around 6:00 pm the night of the accident. Again, in direct contradiction to Perdock's own sworn statements.

· Conflict of Interest - The District Attorney's office is now conducting additional investigation on the matters of Perdock's alleged drinking at Konocti Harbor, the inconsistencies between Perdock's testimony about the time line versus the witness accounts that contradict his version of the events, as well as other matters. However, the investigator for the DA is John Flynn, who shares a membership in the Lake County Masonic Temple with Russell Perdock. Despite this clear conflict of interest, the D.A. denies any potential impropriety with Flynn's role in the investigation.

· Compromised Evidence - The sail boat, a critical piece of evidence in this case, was left unsecured. While the Sheriff's office claims that switches in the boat for the navigation lights were in the off position when investigated the next day, there is a clear issue with the chain of evidence and the protection of that evidence from potential tampering.

· Compromised Evidence & Conflict of Interest - Perdock was not Breathalyzed at the accident scene. Specifically, James Beland of the sheriff's office was told by Sgt. Dennis Ostini that he should not Breathalyze Perdock. In another inconsistency, Mike Morshed of the Sheriff's office has now testified that it was he who told Beland to not Breathalyze Perdock claiming that their equipment had not been calibrated in a year. Strangely enough, this issue did not seem to prevent the Sheriff's office from Breathalyzing Dinus at the scene. This means that the only evidence as to Perdock's level of intoxication at the time of the incident is the blood test that was administered. Apparently this blood was drawn in one location, and then transported in another location by Beland. However, Beland can not testify to the location and manner of transportation, indicating that the chain of custody was broken. Furthermore, Beland was transporting Perdock at the same time he was transporting the blood, putting Perdock in immediate proximity with his own blood sample. Finally, labeling by the hospital indicates that the sample was not taken until 24 hours after the actual event. While both Beland and Perdock both state that the labeling of the sample is wrong, it is further evidence of poor investigative work in this case, if not actual impropriety by the Sheriff's office.

· Contradictory Testimony - Perdock first claimed he remembered the speedometer on his boat being straight up, which would have put his speed at 55 to 60. He later changed that to a statement that he was going 40 to 45. He later changed that statement to say he was going 30 to 35. He later recanted that testimony when shown pictures that showed the speedometer pointing straight up.

· Damning Testimony - Sgt. Dennis Ostini of the Sheriff's office has made a statement that he himself, when traveling by boat to the accident scene, did not feel comfortable exceeding 10 miles per hour because of the lack of visibility on that dark night. What does it say about Perdock's potentially compromised judgment that he felt that he could travel at 55 miles per hour?

· Conflict of Interest - The only person in the Sheriff's office that has offered testimony that directly contradicts Perdock's version of the events is James Beland. An outside observer has no choice but to be suspicious of that Sheriff's office when one finds out that Beland was terminated by the Sheriff's office after offering that testimony.

· Discovery Problems - on the day that the trial was supposed to begin, the Prosecution provided the defense with 110 pages of evidence from a Private Investigator hired by Perdock, some of which is exculpatory to Dinius. Normally this would be provided to the defense much earlier, and certainly not as late as the morning of the trial. The prosecutor, John Langan, had no explanation as to why this evidence was not provided earlier.

· Missing Evidence - the 911 tapes from the night of the accident are now missing. Apparently, they were turned over to the DAs office which "lost" them without ever making them available to the defense.

Also recently Perdocks ex wife made the following startling admission to ABC7 news..

QUOTE Donna Perdock makes one other interesting point. She says Russell Perdock uses eye glasses to drive at night or when his eyes are tired. Perdock has testified he was not wearing glasses at the time of the crash. Donna Perdock says Russell Perdock's night vision is so bad that she had to direct him around buoys at night, even though he was familiar with their location. She says, "Driving on a moonless night in the dark? That was my first inclination of the reason why he didn't see the sailboat."
Hopefully the jury will remember it must be proved "beyond a reasonable doubt".

What a sad case. :( In the end, nobody really wins.
I read about this in Latitude 38 some time ago.

This sort of thing happens often. A friend of mine is in a similar situation. He is being stalled on his court proceedings and being told he must admit his guilt--which would let the officers who are the guilty ones off the hook.

Out Constitution guarantees us the right to a speed trial. But when a government official is the guilty party, the good old boy network, pulls the bad guy through.

This case won't end until the operator of the sailboat pleads guilty, and they let him off with a slap on the hand. The whole case is about protecting the guilty officer.

I hope they don't give in. It may take five years to settle this, but if they don't there is a chance they could win the case, find the officer criminally guilty and and file a civil action sue him for all he has.