Saturday, 15 June 2024

Sailboat case preliminary hearing opens

Bismarck Dinius takes a break outside of the courtroom on the first day of his preliminary hearing in Lake County Superior Court on Tuesday, May 20. Photo by Harold LaBonte.


LAKEPORT – A Carmichael man will likely know this week if he'll face trial in connection with the death of a woman that resulted from a 2006 boating collision.

The preliminary hearing for Bismarck Dinius, 39, got under way Tuesday in Lake County Superior Court Judge Richard Martin's courtroom.

The proceedings will determine if there is enough evidence to try Dinius on charges of vehicular manslaughter involving a vessel and misdemeanor boating under the influence of alcohol.

On the night of April 29, 2006, Dinius was steering a sailboat belonging to Mark Weber of Willows, when a speed boat driven by Russell Perdock, a chief deputy with the Lake County Sheriff's Office, collided with the sailboat.

Weber's fiancee, 51-year-old Lynn Thornton, was mortally injured and died May 2, 2006, at UC Davis Medical Center.

Dinius was charged because authorities alleged that the sailboat's lights weren't on, and both Dinius and Weber allegedly had blood alcohol levels above the legal limit.

Perdock was not charged, although investigative reports indicated he had violated the “safe speed” rule, which requires that a boat operator at all times maintain a speed that allows them to stop the vessel “within half the distance of forward visibility.”

On Tuesday, Prosecutor John Langan called four people to the stand in the first day of testimony, including Perdock, Lake County Sheriff's Sgt. Mark Hoffman, Deputy John Gregore and Boat Patrol Sgt. Dennis Ostini.

Along with the testimony, Langan entered more than a dozen items into evidence, including photographs of Perdock's boat and Weber's sailboat, Beats Workin' II; a large aerial photograph of the region; and several documents and reports from law enforcement and investigating agencies.

Ostini, who oversees the sheriff's Boat Patrol program, was the officer in charge the night the boat crash occurred, according to testimony given in court Tuesday.

He spent more than three hours on the witness stand, answering Langan's questions and being cross-examined by Dinius' defense attorney, Victor Haltom of Sacramento.

Testimony in the case resumes Wednesday morning at 9 a.m., when Haltom is expected to continue his cross examination of Ostini.

The case has given rise to accusations against local authorities that they were attempting to protect Perdock.

A review of the case completed last December by the California Attorney General's Office found the Lake County Sheriff's Office had handled the matter properly, especially in bringing in outside agencies to help with the investigation. However, at the time, Haltom dismissed the review, saying it addressed none of the case's important issues.

Last summer, Haltom also attempted to have the District Attorney's Office removed from the case, but the state Attorney General's Office assisted in arguing against the motion, which a judge denied, as Lake County News reported.

Elizabeth Larson contributed to this report.

E-mail Harold LaBonte at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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