Wednesday, 29 May 2024

New witness statements feature prominently in request to delay Dinius trial

LAKEPORT – On Tuesday, the prosecution and defense will present arguments over whether or not to delay a Carmichael man's trial for a fatal 2006 sailboat crash, and at the heart of those arguments are new witness statements that could prove crucial to the case's outcome.


The District Attorney's Office is seeking to delay the trial date for 40-year-old Bismarck Dinius, who is being tried for vehicular manslaughter with a boat and boating under the influence.


At issue Tuesday will be new witness statements about the activities of an off-duty sheriff's deputy in the hours before the crash. Also, a sheriff's deputy has come forward to corroborate the statements of a former sheriff's sergeant who said he was ordered not to give a breathalyzer test at the scene


Dinius was at the tiller of the Beats Workin' II – owned by Willows resident Mark Weber – on April 29, 2006, when the boat was hit by a power boat driven by Russell Perdock, an off-duty chief deputy with the Lake County Sheriff's Office.


Weber's fiancée, Lynn Thornton, 51, was mortally injured in the crash and died a few days later.


Perdock was not charged in the case after a blood test showed no alcohol was in his system; Dinius, who had a blood alcohol level of .12, was charged with boating under the influence and vehicular manslaughter, with the latter charge arising largely because he is accused of piloting the sailboat without lights.


However, new witness statements have placed Perdock at Konocti Harbor Resort & Spa, where he was seen drinking and walking around some of the resort's bars.


Dinius' trial is scheduled to begin Tuesday morning, but visiting Judge J. Michael Byrne has scheduled a hearing on Deputy District Attorney John Langan's request to reschedule the trial.


Langan stated in court documents released last week that he needed additional time to investigate new information that he received during the last week in April. Some of that new information related to Perdock's whereabouts in the hours before the crash.


The discovery statements by witnesses were released in a notice of objection to the continuance Langan is seeking. That objection was filed by Victor Haltom, Dinius' defense attorney, who said he's ready to proceed to trial.


In his argument to the court, Haltom said the evidence “seriously damages the prosecution's case,” adding that “Perdock's recklessness was the proximate cause of Lynn Thornton's death, and his colleagues in local law enforcement have actively shielded his culpability.”


He added, “Evidence that Mr. Perdock was drinking alcohol shortly before the accident and that law enforcement officials did not subject him to prompt blood-alcohol level test (or breath-alcohol level test) serves only to bolster the defense position.”


While Haltom says that the new evidence justifies exploring prosecution of Perdock and his “enablers” for charges including perjury and obstruction of justice, he said it doesn't justify delaying the trial itself, because he said the prosecution has had more than enough time to examine the case, which began three years ago last month.


He then includes 27 pages of district attorney's investigation reports, submitted to the defense through discovery, that include new interviews with Perdock and several witnesses, some of whom place him at Konocti Harbor in the hours before the crash.


Witness statements give different picture


Perdock told Lake County News last Friday that he denied all of that new information, and insisted he was not on the Konocti Harbor grounds the day of the crash.


He made similar statements to district attorney's investigators on May 7. During that interview, he provided a detailed time line of his activities on April 29, 2006, which he created as a way of venting his frustration over the case, which he said Sheriff Rod Mitchell won't let him talk to anyone about.


When asked if he knew some of the people who claimed to have seen him at Konocti Harbor – including John Yashiki-Jansen, who stated he saw Perdock at Konocti Harbor's outside bar with a drink in his hand – Perdock denied knowing them and said they were lying about him.


In his statements to district attorney's investigators, Yashiki-Jansen said he knows Perdock through friends, and that the men raced their boats out on the lake between about 7:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. that night, at the time Perdock said he was still at home. Yashiki-Jansen also successfully pointed out Perdock in a photo lineup.


Richard Jones, a security supervisor at the resort, claimed to have seen Perdock that night, but did not see him drinking. He also stated that he could not be positive that he had seen Perdock there the same night as the crash, and that it may have been the night before. When presented with the photo lineup, Jones did not pick Perdock's picture.


Other witnesses investigators interviewed included Dennis Olson, currently in the Lake County Jail, who was arrested last July after he allegedly hit a young child with his pickup and fled the scene, as Lake County News has reported.


Olson, who was working as a security guard at the resort at the time of the crash, picked Perdock successfully in the photo lineup. He stated to investigators that he told two sheriff's deputies on the night of the crash that he saw Perdock at the resort that night sometime after 6 p.m. but before the collision, and that he saw him leave around 9 p.m.


That night, Olson – who said he has known Perdock for about five years – stated that he didn't see Perdock drinking.


Joseph Gliebe, Konocti Harbor's director of security, also told investigators he saw Perdock at the resort, although he was not 100 percent sure that it was the night of the crash. Gliebe further stated that he didn't see Perdock drinking, and he picked him out of the photo lineup.


Myra Martinelli, who worked at Konocti Harbor at the time of the crash as a part-time security officer, said she heard Olson and Gliebe talking the night of the crash, and that one of the men said they hoped Perdock wasn't drunk or hadn't drank too much prior to the crash.


New evidence supports former sheriff's sergeant


Langan also has made a Pitchess motion – a specific motion used to acquire peace officer records – to secure personnel records of former sheriff's Sgt. James Beland, which will be argued Tuesday.


Beland has come forward to state that he was ordered not to administer a breathalyzer test to Perdock at the scene, which contradicts testimony he gave last year at Dinius' preliminary hearing.


Haltom's objection filing includes an investigative report district attorney's investigators completed following an interview with another former sheriff's sergeant, Deputy Mike Morshed, who stated that he ordered Beland not to give the test breathalyzer test to Perdock.


Morshed told investigators that he didn't observe or smell alcohol on Perdock. He stated that he didn't want the preliminary alcohol screening (PAS) – or breathalyzer – used on Perdock because it “had not been calibrated for more than a year and would not be admissable in court and he felt blood would be much more accurate.”


Beland had said in an internal affairs investigation interview that Sgt. Dennis Ostini had told him not to administer the test, as Lake County News has reported.


In the interview with investigators, Morshed said he helped Boat Patrol Deputy Lloyd Wells tow the damaged sailboat later on the night of the crash. He said the area had a lot of light on the water.


“Deputy Morshed said he thought it strange because Russell Perdock had said it was so dark. Deputy Morshed said he thought it may have more light near the shore than out further in the water,” the report states.


Morshed also faxed investigators a letter identifying people who claimed to have seen Perdock drinking prior to the boat crash.


Tuesday's hearing begins at 9 a.m. in Lake County Superior Court in Lakeport.


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

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