Friday, 21 June 2024

Judge denies motion to reduce charges in sailboat case

Judge Richard Martin explains his reason for denying the motion to reduce the charges in court on Friday, February 20, 2009. Photo by Harold LaBonte.

LAKEPORT – A Lake County Superior Court judge on Friday turned down a motion to reduce charges against a man accused of felony manslaughter involving a boat and boating under the influence.

Sacramento defense attorney Victor Haltom sought the charge reductions on behalf of his client, Bismarck Dinius, 40, of Carmichael.

Dinius is facing charges that arise from an April 2006 boating collision on Clear Lake, during which Willows resident Lynn Thornton, 51, was fatally injured, dying a few days later.

He was at the tiller of a sailboat owned by Thornton's fiance, Mark Weber of Willows, when the sailboat was hit by a speedboat driven by Russell Perdock, currently a captain in the Lake County Sheriff's Office.

Following an investigation which the Sacramento County Sheriff's Office was called in to lead, Dinius was charged in the case. The District Attorney's Office alleges that the sailboat's running lights weren't on and says Dinius was under the influence of alcohol. Perdock was not charged in the case.

Following several hours of delays due to other cases, Dinius' case was heard Friday afternoon by Judge Richard Martin.

Haltom had filed a request that the felony charges against Dinius be reduced to misdemeanors. In his argument he went one step further, referring to a procedure which gives a magistrate or superior court judge the authority to grant a full dismissal of all charges.

Deputy District Attorney John Langan offered no opposing arguments during the afternoon court session.

Judge Martin said he had spent a significant amount of time researching Haltom’s basis for the motion.

Then, in a 20-minute response, Martin denied Haltom's request, explaining that, despite the technical and creative merits of Haltom’s motion, it was not timely, as a window of opportunity to submit motions of this type had come and gone.

Martin further explained that the next window of opportunity available to the defense to request a review of such a motion would be between the point of conviction and the time of sentencing.

Following the decision, Haltom asked the court to allow members of Lynn Thornton’s family to address the court. Several of them – who had mailed letters to the judge stating their position in defense of Dinius – were present in court on Friday.

Martin denied the request to hear from the family, suggesting that the best place for such testimony is in front of a jury.

While still in the courtroom and discussing future court dates with Martin and Langan, Haltom informed the court that he would be seeking DNA samples from Perdock. Haltom openly expressed his doubts as to the validity of the blood samples allegedly taken the night of the incident.

“I have good reason to believe that the blood in the vials may not be Perdock's blood,” said Haltom.

Prior to the hearing, Dinius told Lake County News that he was cautiously optimistic about the motion's possibility of success. The worst-case scenario for him now is that he could end up spending four years in prison for the manslaughter charge.

After the hearing Dinius said he felt that local authorities will force the case to go before a jury.

Before the hearing, Haltom stated that the ability to charge Perdock in the case runs out on April 26 due to the statute of limitations. He made that point in court as well.

Langan remained in the courtroom on court business and was unavailable for comments immediately after the hearing.

The next court appearance in the case is March 27, during which Dinius does not need to be present. Other pretrial hearings are scheduled for April 20 and May 15, with his trial tentatively scheduled to begin on May 19.

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




Bismarck Dinius is expected to go on trial this coming May. Photo by Harold LaBonte.



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