Saturday, 13 July 2024


LAKEPORT – On Friday the district attorney presented several rebuttal witnesses in an effort to impeach defense testimony that suggested a Carmichael man wasn't responsible for a fatal 2006 boat crash.

However, Judge J. Michael Byrne ruled Friday that one witness District Attorney Jon Hopkins wanted to bring to the stand with a new evidence report wouldn't be allowed, saying the information should have been prepared and presented earlier in the more than three year old case.

Hopkins is seeking to convict 41-year-old Bismarck Dinius of felony boating under the influence with great bodily injury in connection with the death of 51-year-old Lynn Thornton of Willows.

On the night of April 29, 2006, Dinius was at the tiller of the Beats Workin' II, a sailboat that was hit by a powerboat driven by an off-duty sheriff's chief deputy, Russell Perdock, who wasn't charged in the case, but who the defense argues was driving too fast for conditions.

Although Thornton's boyfriend, Mark Weber, owned the sailboat Dinius was steering, Hopkins is arguing that it was Dinius who ultimately was responsible for the crash because he is alleged to have had a blood alcohol of 0.12 and was under way without lights.

Defense attorney Victor Haltom also signaled Friday that he will once again file a motion for acquittal based on his assertion that Dinius did not have a duty to turn on the boat's navigation lights.

On Thursday Haltom rested his case, which set the stage for Hopkins to present his rebuttal witnesses.

Before the jury was brought in for the morning sessions, Haltom argued against allowing three witnesses Hopkins planned to call – Denise Rockenstein, a reporter for the Clear lake Observer American and Lake County Record-Bee, District Attorney's Office Investigator Craig Woodworth and sheriff's Deputy John Gregore.

Regarding Rockenstein, Haltom said she was being presented to impeach John Jansen, who testified earlier in the week to having seen Perdock at Konocti Harbor Resort & Spa's outside bar before racing him across the lake in the hours before the crash.

He wanted a special hearing on admitting her testimony, which he said consisted of saying she was at a restaurant and bar in Clearlake where Jansen's friends, Luke Glanzer and another subject identified only as “Big Worm,” were talking about “racing all day” with Perdock on the lake. Jansen reportedly said nothing during the conversation.

Haltom said the testimony would be inconsistent since Perdock was said to have been on a Scout hike with his son earlier in the day.

Hopkins replied, “This is offered to show not the truth of the statements of these two men but the fact that they are making those statements and he is sitting there not saying anything, not joining in, not correcting them.” He said it showed Jansen's state of mind and showed the lack of credibility in his statements.

“It has some relevance,” said Byrne. “The jury can weigh it.”

When Haltom tried to argue, Byrne said, “It's not his statement, it's his conduct,” that was at issue.

Haltom questioned if Jansen even heard what the two were saying. That was a foundational issue, said Byrne. Haltom said he didn't believe the foundation existed, and said Jansen denied having that conversation. In that case, Hopkins said, it comes in as an inconsistency that further impeaches him.

While Byrne allowed Rockenstein to testify, he denied allowing Woodworth, who the prosecution had called during the main portion of the case, and whose planned testimony had potentially more significant implications.

On Wednesday, Hopkins had Woodworth, his acting chief investigator, go to the sheriff's Boat Patrol facility on Buckingham Point to examine the sailboat's wiring. Woodworth then compiled a six-page report with 70 photos in an effort to impeach the testimony presented last Friday by defense expert Dr. William Chilcott, a forensics engineer.

“Either we're not very smart or the report is poorly written, because we can't figure out what it says,” said Haltom.

The report said that the wires to the sailboat's stern light were not severed during the collision, as Chilcott testified, Haltom said.

“This is evidence that needs to have been presented in the case in chief,” said Haltom, who told Byrne that the report containing Chilcott's conclusions was submitted to the District Attorney's Office in January 2008.

Chilcott, who was not made subject to recall, has since returned to Idaho, and doesn't currently have fax or Internet capability, said Haltom, who quoted case law that argued against late presentation of such evidence.

The evidence was completely improper, said Haltom, who explained the trial was going to have to be delayed until he could get the information to Chilcott for a response.

“It's insane for the prosecution to have waited until Aug. 12 to go do this examination,” Haltom said.

Hopkins said the information was important. Chilcott did not come to his conclusions through scientific testing, such as tracing the wires to make sure they went to the stern light, but only based the statements on a visual inspection.

Woodworth's findings contradicted Chilcott's, Hopkins said, and the wires looked nothing like how Chilcott identified them in photographs on the stand. He said Woodworth should be allowed to testify that Chilcott's conclusions are not supported by facts.

The report showed that Weber was correct when he said the sailboat's mast light wasn't working, said Hopkins.

“There is not the kind of severing that he says took place,” Hopkins said of Chilcott. “This is the key to their expert testimony, and it's faulty.”

Hopkins said that wire was going to be brought to court, along with photos tracing where it went, which Chilcott failed to do.

A frustrated Haltom got up from his seat and stood behind the defense table as Hopkins stated that the report wasn't purposefully held back.

“It is relevant, there's no question about it,” Byrne said of the wire study.

However, he said that issue has been central since the case's beginning. “We're now talking about three years later,” said Byrne, adding that the study should have been done well this week, and so raised a foundational problem.

The testimony – which Byrne said should lead to undue consumption of time – should have been outlined and prepared as part of Hopkins' case in chief.

He ended by sustaining Haltom's objection and denying the admission of Woodworth's testimony.

Hopkins continued to argue on behalf of producing Woodworth and his report, at which point Byrne held up his hand and said, “Counsel, I've ruled.”

Haltom also objected to Hopkins presenting Gregore, who he said was being used to impeach the testimony of Henry “Ed” Dominguez, a sailboat passenger who testified earlier in the trial.

In a videotaped statement Dominguez gave to Gregore at the scene, he had said Weber and Dinius were “hammered,” said Hopkins. On the stand this week Dominguez said “hammered up” mean happy.

Haltom said Dominguez had been released and not subject to recall. Hopkins said he didn't plan to ask him to explain. The judge said there was some relevance to the questioning.

Before the jury came in, Hopkins – noting the judge already had ruled – said he wanted to introduce Woodworth's photos because they impeach Chilcott's ability to identify facts from a photo. Hopkins said Chilcott had identified characteristics in light bulb filaments that the report could contradict. The judge let his ruling stand and called for the jury to be brought in.

Sheriff's sergeant explains computer system

Hopkins' first witness was Sgt. Dave Garzoli, a Lake County Sheriff's Office employee of nearly 20 years. Garzoli testified about the agency's RIMS software system, used for making and tracking reports and investigations. He's been the department's assistant RIMS administrator for five years.

Garzoli said Boat Patrol Supervisor Sgt. Dennis Ostini asked him this week if he could run a search of the system to determine if any deputy had contacted Jean Strak, who testified Wednesday that she saw the sailboat's lights on as it pulled out of a boat slip at Richmond Park Bar & Grill for its nighttime cruise.

Strak stated that a deputy came to her tanning salon on Soda Bay Road within a week of the crash and interviewed her for an hour, but Haltom said he never received any report from the sheriff's office about her statement.

Garzoli said he found a contact for Strak in the RIMS system; it wasn't for the boat crash but, rather, for a bar fight that same year. On Thursday Garzoli ran several advanced searches and found no indication that a sheriff's deputy contacted her at the tanning salon, but that she had been interviewed at the bar where she was assaulted.

Showing Garzoli the RIMS audit log for the case, Haltom asked if a contact a deputy made with Strak would show up in that documents. No, said Garzoli. He explained that if there was a contact with Strak it would only have showed up if a report was written or other information was added to the case file.

Asking Garzoli to turn to a specific report page, Haltom asked him about a set of initials.

“Who is REP?” Haltom asked.

“Russell Perdock,” said Garzoli.

Hopkins objected, saying the question was beyond the scope, which Byrne sustained.

Haltom asked if the audit log showed alterations to the report. Hopkins again objected and Byrne sustained.

Could a sheriff's deputy have changed the report had Strak been contacted? Haltom asked. Yes, certain deputies could, Garzoli said.

“Is Russell Perdock one of those deputies?” Haltom asked. Garzoli said yes.

How many times do the initials “REP” appear in the audit report? Haltom asked. Hopkins objected and Byrne again sustained.

To enter a report into the RIMS system, does a deputy need to be on a computer at the sheriff's office? Haltom asked.

“There's a handful of people that have remote access from their homes,” said Garzoli, adding that most of the reports would be made at the sheriff's office.

Haltom said he wanted Garzoli to be subject to recall.

Hopkins asked Garzoli if a deputy's case report or a call in to dispatch to record a contact can be erased out of the system once it's entered. Garzoli said. no.

Deputy discusses statements from witnesses, his own concerns

Gregore, a seven-year sheriff's office veteran who is assigned to patrol, responded to the Konocti Bay area after the crash was reported. “It was a pretty chaotic scene.”

He said then-Sgt. James Beland had him contact all the witnesses at the scene and do recorded interviews, which he did using the mobile audio visual unit in Beland's patrol car.

Gregore said he spoke with Peter Erickson and four other subjects who accompanied Erickson out on his boat to the crash scene. They didn't witness the crash, so Gregore took their contact information for a later interview.

Hopkins asked him about speaking to fishermen Colin Johnson and Anthony Esposti. Haltom objected and Byrne sustained, but Hopkins said, “It's very brief.”

Byrne asked Hopkins and Haltom to approach the bench and after a brief discussion Byrne said he would allow questions about course of conduct.

Gregore recorded the statements of Dominguez and his fiancee, Zina Dotti. He said Dominguez described both Dinius and Weber as “hammered,” before adding, “Well, maybe not hammered but they'd definitely been drinking.”

He said he didn't contract Strak about the crash. Gregore said he didn't go to Konocti Harbor that night. He did see Perdock at the crash scene but didn't go up to him or hear him say anything about having a soda at Konocti Harbor.

Haltom asked Gregore if Dotti told him anything about the speed at which Perdock's boat had been traveling. Hopkins objected and Byrne sustained. Haltom asked if he had put anything in his report about Dotti's comments on Perdock's speed. Hopkins objected and Byrne overruled. No, said Gregore, his report didn't mention the speed statements.

What did Dotti tell him about the boat's speed? Haltom asked. Hopkins objected and Byrne again overruled. Gregore said Dotti stated that Perdock was going very fast.

Dominguez told Gregore he wasn't sure about lights on the sailboat. “He didn't remember clearly seeing any lights,” Gregore said.

“Did you have any thoughts about the fact that Mr. Perdock was involved?” Hopkins asked.

“I did,” said Gregore before Haltom objected, but Byrne overruled.

“I didn't want to be there. I didn't want to be involved with it,” said Gregore. However, he added, “You can't put everything on hold at the scene.”

He said he wanted to get accurate interviews that reflected peoples' true accounts of what happened.

Did he try to protect Perdock? Hopkins asked.

“Absolutely not,” said Gregore.

Gregore, who came from an area where the nighttime water speed limits was 5 miles per hour, thought that was the legal speed in all cases, so originally Gregore said he thought Perdock had broken the speed law.

Hopkins asked Gregore if he noted signs of Weber's intoxication in his report. Haltom objected and Byrne overruled.

Gregore said yes, noting that he saw Weber had red, watery eyes, slurred speech and there was the odor of alcohol on him.

Reporter recounts conversation with Jansen, friends

Next to take the stand was Rockenstein, who said she knew Jansen as “Yoshi.” She encountered Jansen, Glanzer and “Big Worm” – she knew only that his first name was Robbie – at the Lakehouse Inn in Clearlake.

She said she was standing near the men in the smoking area on the back deck, overlooking the water. “They were talking about having raced on Clear Lake, having raced Russell Perdock,” she said.

Rockenstein said Glanzer and Big Worm were doing most of the talking, saying on the day of the crash they had been on the lake racing Perdock all day. Jansen “wasn't offering much but he was standing right there,” she said.

“I basically told them that wasn't true,” said Rockenstein.

Perdock, she said, “could be accounted for all day.”

Haltom objected to the statement, but Byrne overruled him.

When his turn came to question Rockenstein, the only question Haltom asked was, “Are you a reporter for the Lake County Record-Bee?” She said yes.

Ostini recalled to stand

Ostini, who testified two different times during the trial, was Hopkins' last witness on Friday.

He recounted Chilcott coming to look at the instrument panel on Perdock's powerboat. Ostini said he, Deputy District Attorney John Langan and Haltom were present when Chilcott checked for “needle slap” – the mark of a needle on a glass gauge face as the result of an abrupt deceleration such as occurs during a crash.

Ostini said both he and Chilcott climbed into the boat, and pulled a thick black plastic cover over them so Chilcott could use a black light to look at the gauges. Chilcott told Ostini that the needles weren't the type to show needle slap under black light, so he used a flashlight.

Pointing to a speck of dust on the gauge face, Chilcott said it was evidence of needle slap, according to Ostini. Ostini said he told Chilcott he was mistaken, and recalled asking Langan and Haltom for permission to clean the glass, which he said they gave. The dust came off.

He said he didn't speak with Peter Erickson at the scene; Ostini said the only witnesses he was talking to at the time where those who saw the crash itself. He also was trying to get the boats transferred to the sheriff's facility and get to the hospital to see Weber and Dinius before they were discharged.

Ostini said he hadn't heard about Strak until a couple of years into the investigation. He said she was contacted May 6, 2006, at Richmond Park regarding a bar fight in which she was assaulted. A deputy contacted her again about that fight on May 30, 2006, but there was no indication she had ever been visited at her salon.

Hopkins asked Ostini if he heard Perdock say anything about a soda. Haltom objected and Byrne sustained.

“Your honor, that was testimony on the defense case by Mr. Peter Erickson,” Hopkins said.

“All right, I'll allow it,” said Byrne.

Ostini said he didn't hear Perdock say that.

Haltom asked Ostini if he was at Perdock's side constantly at the scene. Ostini said no.

Going back to Ostini's recollection of the needle slap test, Haltom asked if Ostini remembered him being there. Ostini replied, “I'm sorry, you are correct,” about Haltom not being there.

Did Perdock order someone to contact Strak? No, Ostini said, adding he hadn't discussed the situation with Perdock.

Hopkins showed Ostini a portion of the audit report and pointed out Gregore's initials, to which Haltom objected and Byrne overruled. “It'll become clear,” said Hopkins.

He read off a list of witnesses and the names of those involved that Gregore had entered into the RIMS system between midnight and 1 a.m. on Sunday, April 30, 2006.

“The electronic report is rather fluid, and you can keep adding to it,” said Ostini

Haltom asked if Ostini had seen entries for locking the report. “The report is locked by a supervisor when it's completed,” Ostini said. Had he seen it unlocked? Ostini said he hadn't recently reviewed it.

Another witness Hopkins wanted to call couldn't make it on Friday, so Byrne dismissed the jurors for the day, telling them they may hear two more witnesses on Tuesday when court reconvenes at 10 a.m. A hearing on the release of Perdock's personnel records is scheduled at 8:30 a.m.

Following those final witnesses, which will be on the stand a short time to clarify a few matters, Byrne said they'll go into arguments and jury instructions. “We are way ahead of schedule.”

On Monday Byrne, Hopkins and Haltom will meet to go over jury instructions. Byrne said he's assessing whether to do arguments or instructions first. If all goes well, he said, the jury should have the case Tuesday or Wednesday.

The attorneys are “going to have a lot to say” during closing arguments, so Byrne urged jurors not to make up their minds before closing arguments.

Defense to press for acquittal

With the jury gone, Haltom notified the court that at the end of closing arguments he'll seek a judgment for acquittal.

Haltom said he'll pinpoint the issue of duty – specifically, if it was Dinius' duty to turn on the sailboat's navigation lights.

“Determining the existence of duty is for the court, not the jury,” Haltom said.

If there's no duty, the case can't go to the jury, said Haltom. “Our position is he had no duty to turn on the lights.”

Byrne noted that there are a lot of recent cases on duty in civil matters.

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

LAKEPORT – A man on trial for felony boating under the influence took the stand to recall the hours before a fatal sailboat crash more than three years ago.

Bismarck Dinius, 41, was the last of three witnesses to take the stand Thursday morning before the defense rested in his trial. He spent just under an hour answering questions about the events that led to the fatal collision.

By the end of the morning the judge estimated that the case could be handed over to the jury next Tuesday or Wednesday.

The Carmichael resident was at the tiller of Willows resident Mark Weber's sailboat on the night of April 29, 2006, when it was hit by a powerboat driven by Russell Perdock, an off-duty sheriff's deputy.

Weber's girlfriend, 51-year-old Lynn Thornton, was mortally injured and died three days later.

While Perdock is alleged to have been going anywhere from 35 to 55 miles per hour on the dark night, Dinius is being prosecuted for boating under the influence causing great bodily injury because the prosecution contends he was the boat's operator and had failed to turn on the navigation lights. It's also alleged that he had a blood alcohol level of 0.12.

Just after 9:30 a.m., Dinius himself took the stand after the testimony of two other witnesses. After he was seated defense attorney Haltom called him “Bismarck,” and Hopkins objected, saying they needed to be more formal in court.

As the jury watched him attentively – most of them taking notes – Dinius recalled that Weber had invited him on the nighttime cruise, and that it was Weber who was directing the boat, with Dinius following his directions.

The boat's lights were on, said Dinius. “The cabin lights were definitely illuminated.”

He said the cabin lights made it possible for him to see a wind indicator on the top of the mast. “I was using the cabin lights to see the wind indicator so I could gauge the wind,” he said, noting the sails also were completely illuminated.

Dinius said he was at the tiller after Weber asked him to help man the boat while he got the sails ready. He said he'd had alcohol to drink that night at Richmond Park Bar & Grill, where the boat had been docked following the Konocti Cup earlier in the day.

He sustained injuries to his back, suffered two broken ribs and bruising to the entire right side of his rib cage, a broken and badly cut hand, and a severe concussion that left him with a “tennis ball” on his head for three months. As a result he suffered memory loss.

“What kind of memory loss did you suffer?” Hopkins asked.

“Part of that day, I don't recall the accident,” said Dinius, noting he also had short-term memory loss.

Hopkins questioned his recollection of the wind indicator being illuminated. How many such indicators were on the boat? He asked. Dinius didn't know. Was there one lower on the boom? Hopkins asked. Dinius didn't remember.

Why did he look at the wind indicator? Hopkins asked. Dinius said it helps with handling the boat.

Dinius didn't recall pulling out of the dock, whether he was at the tiller or if they used a motor to go out. “We were well under way” when he remembered being at tiller.

That cruise was the only time he had ever been on Weber's boat. “I was at the tiller as he hoisted his sails and manned the rigging on his boat.”

Hopkins asked when he noticed he sails illuminated. Dinius wasn't sure. He did remember it was about dusk and getting dark when they left. “It was definitely leaning towards the dark side of the evening.”

Dinius didn't remember his conversation with Boat Patrol Supervisor Sgt. Dennis Ostini at the hospital early on the morning of April 30, 2006. Ostini testified that Dinius told him he was at the tiller.

When Weber asked him to go on the cruise, Dinius had been ready to leave Richmond Park for the evening, but Weber said it was going to be really quick.

“It was a nice night, good way to end the sailing day,” Dinius said.

He explained he had only sailed on Clear Lake while participating in the Konocti Cup race, which he had taken part in with Don Hare on Hare's sailboat earlier that day. “I didn't come up here for recreation at all.”

There was a wine tasting event in conjunction with the regatta, and Dinius said he had two to three sample glasses, about 2 ounces each. He also drank Corona beers and a Coors Light. “I couldn't tell you the number.”

He said he didn't recall the wine being very good. “Careful what you say about Lake County wine,” Hopkins joked. “I didn't say it was Lake County wine,” Dinius replied.

Dinius said he thinks he and Hare took Hare's boat out at Boren Bega around 4:30 p.m., then Hare drove them to Richmond Park, where there were a lot of people socializing and having “sailor talk.”

He recalled drinking a lot of water before dinner and throughout the day, because he was dehydrated from being on the lake. Dinius said he had dinner between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m., drinking either water or ice tea, and started drinking beer after dinner. He remembered having a Coors Light in his hand when they boarded the boat, and he thought someone brought him a Corona while they were sailing.

Weber was giving the orders. “He raised the sails and he tended to the sails the entire time,” Dinius said.

At one point Weber was playing with the radio after Thornton said something to him about it. They were well under sail at that point, Dinius said.

Hopkins questioned him about his statements in an Aug. 8, 2007, deposition for a civil lawsuit relating to the crash. At that time he stated that he had three to four beers. Did that sound correct, asked Hopkins? Yes, Dinius replied.

Dinius gave a rough estimate that the sailboat had been cruising 30 to 45 minutes before the crash. He didn't recall any other people at the tiller during that time.

He said everyone was seated in close proximity, illuminated in the cabin lights.

When they were under way, they were in full sail, but Dinius said he didn't recall if they were on a starboard or port tack. He remembered Weber giving the order to come about as they turned near Fraser Point to head back to the restaurant.

Dinius said he couldn't remember the sails' orientation. If he wasn't looking at the sails, why was he looking at the wind indicator? Hopkins asked. Dinius said he didn't say he wasn't looking at the sails, he just couldn't remember them.

After the crash, he didn't remember the ride to the hospital, although he had a flash of another person in the ambulance with him. He thought it was Thornton, who had been sitting next to him on the sailboat. Other witnesses have testified it was Jordin Walker, who was on Perdock's powerboat along with her father, James.

Dinius thought Weber came into his room at the hospital to ask how he was doing. Within a few weeks to a month, Weber called Dinius.

Referring to a deposition Dinius gave in the civil lawsuit in August 2007, Hopkins asked, “He asked you if the lights were on, correct?”

“Yes,” Dinius relied.

“Did you decline to talk to him about accident?” Hopkins asked.

Dinius said he did, telling Weber the crash was under investigation and he didn't feel comfortable discussing it. He didn't recall giving Weber an answer about the lights.

Shortly after Dinius left the stand, Haltom told the court that the defense rested.

Attorneys enter stipulations, hear from other witnesses

When court began earlier that morning, and before testimony got under way, Haltom read into the record two stipulations to which he and Hopkins had agreed.

The first was that no report was prepared by the Lake County Sheriff's Office regarding a contact witness Jean Strak said she had with a sheriff's deputy in the days after the crash.

The second stipulation between the defense and prosecution agreed that on April 29, 2006, sunset at the Clearlake Highlands took place at 8:01 p.m. and in Lakeport at 8:03 p.m., with civil twilight ending in the Clearlake Highlands at 8:30 p.m. and at 8:31 p.m. in Lakeport. The waxing crescent moon, of which only 5 percent was visible, set at 10:51 p.m. in the Clearlake Highlands and 10:52 p.m. in Lakeport.

The day's first witness was Malcolm Davy, who owns Down Under Boat Works in Kelseyville. The New Zealand native said he has considerable boating experience, and has built and repaired boats since he was a teenager.

Perdock called him within a few weeks of the crash to ask for a repair estimate to submit to his insurance company for his 24-foot Baja Outlaw powerboat. Although Perdock's boat had been impounded, Davy said he was allowed to see it in the sheriff's Boat Patrol facility at Braito's Marina.

When he went into the building both the powerboat and sailboat were cordoned off with security tape. Davy spent about 20 minutes examining the Baja.

The deputy wasn't with him the entire time. “Something happened, he had to leave me there. He had to go back to the office to do something. So I was there on my own.”

After examining the boat, “I was really surprised at the extent of the damage to the powerboat,” Davy said.

He explained that Bajas are a well designed and well built boat for offshore use – specifically, for going high speeds in ocean conditions.

Davy said here was a very large hole in the powerboat's bow – so large that the combing off the sailboat with all the winches still attached were stuffed into it. “It was very extensive damage.”

Haltom asked if that damage signified anything to him. Hopkins objected. Judge J. Michael Byrne allowed Davy to answer, and he said, “Yes.” When Davy said he had repaired boats before that have gone over other boats, Hopkins objected and Byrne sustained.

How did the damage compare to other boats he's seen? Haltom asked. Hopkins objected, saying it was irrelevant.

Haltom asked if he could compare this damage to that suffered by other boats. Davy said, normally, there's no damage to the boat going over, but Perdock's had a huge hole.

Dave said he was still collecting prices on replacement parts and gel coats when Perdock called and told him not to bother, that the case was going to be hung up for quite a while.

Richard Higinbotham, a former Lake County District Attorney's Office investigator, came to the stand next. A former California Highway Patrol officer of 22 years, his salary was covered by a driving under the influence grant that ran out on Dec. 31, 2008.

He said Deputy District Attorney John Langan, who he was assigned to assist, directed him to interview Perdock, which he did on Sept. 24, 2008.

During the interview they talked about the investigation, said Higinbotham. Nautical terms came up with which Higinbotham said he wasn't familiar.

Higinbotham said Perdock wanted “to express that certain things could be brought to light with the investigation.” Perdock gave Higinbotham a copy of a report done by GAB Investigations, a firm his insurance company had hired to investigate the incident.

During the interview, which wasn't taped, Higinbotham said they discussed wind speed, the speed of the boats, a possible re-interview of Jim Walker, Perdock's friend who was with him on the powerboat during the collision, the collision's mechanics and the lighting conditions.

Haltom asked the purpose of the interview. “I don't know,” said Higinbotham.

Higinbotham said it was his understanding that Perdock had concerns about the investigation that could be helpful. In his report he suggested that if any more interviews were conducted with Perdock that someone more experienced with nautical terms be present. Higinbotham said his experience involved accident reconstruction for vehicles, not boats.

He took a copy of the GAB report, which he attached to his report, and gave the original GAB document back to Perdock.

Hopkins asked Higinbotham if he felt that he was mandated to do things Perdock suggested. He said no. “The only thing I did do was document the interview,” he said.

Court sets out tentative schedule for rest of trial

After the defense rested for the day, Byrne told the jurors that Hopkins had the right to bring rebuttal evidence, which is scheduled for Friday, and that jurors would be excused for the rest of the day.

“We are still running ahead,” said Byrne.

He told the jurors that they may hear evidence from both sides on Friday, and he encouraged them to keep open minds until they've heard everything.

As he dismissed them, Byrne told jurors, “Pretty soon you're going to have to go back to the real world.”

With the jury gone, Haltom finished entering items into evidence, with Hopkins successfully objecting to the entry of a diagram drawn by Lt. Charles Slabaugh of the Sacramento County Sheriff's Office, who helped investigate the case.

Also excluded for lack of foundation was a local Masonic Lodge picture that featured District Attorney's Investigator John Flynn. Perdock, who is also a member, wasn't pictured. “It shows them wearing really goofy purses,” Haltom quipped.

On Friday, Hopkins' rebuttal witnesses will include Ostini, District Attorney's Investigator Craig Woodworth and Deputy John Gregore. Also to be called is Lake County Publishing reporter Denise Rockenstein. She gave the prosecution information about a defense witness, John Jansen, who testified on Wednesday to seeing Perdock in the outside bar at Konocti Harbor Resort & Spa and racing boats with him a few hours before the crash.

Byrne will work with Hopkins and Haltom on jury instructions on Monday, which Dinius has waived his right to attend. On Tuesday, Aug. 18, a hearing is planned regarding Perdock's personnel records. Haltom could recall Perdock to the stand based on the outcome of the records hearing.

The judge estimated closing arguments could begin Aug. 18, with the jury getting the case later that day or the next day, Wednesday, Aug. 19.

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

LAKEPORT – On Wednesday, during the 10th day of a Carmichael man's trial for felony boating under the influence, 10 witnesses gave statements, some of which contradicted portions of testimony given by a sheriff's captain on Tuesday.

Bismarck Dinius, 41, is facing felony boating under the influence with great bodily injury for an April 29, 2006, boat crash. He was at the tiller of a sailboat owned by Willows resident Mark Weber, whose girlfriend, 51-year-old Lynn Thornton, died as a result of injuries in the crash. The sailboat is alleged to have been under way without lights and the prosecution alleges that Dinius was legally intoxicated.

On Tuesday, Russell Perdock was on the stand. Currently a sheriff's captain, Perdock was off duty when his powerboat collided with Weber's sailboat. He has not been charged in the case, but issues of his speed and responsibility have been linchpins of defense attorney Victor Haltom's case.

Perdock maintained on Tuesday that he was driving his powerboat at about 35 miles per hour, the sailboat wasn't lit and he didn't set foot at Konocti Harbor Resort & Spa the night of the crash.

But testimony on Wednesday challenged critical portions of his testimony, from his speed to his whereabouts, with some witnesses maintaining they saw the sailboat with lights.

The day's first witness was Hans Peter Elmer, now a rancher in Montana. A retired police officer whose duties included being a watch commander of the East Bay Regional Park District's marine patrol, Elmer was at the Young Scandinavians Club, sitting on top of a picnic table overlooking Konocti Bay after dinner with his wife, when they witnessed the crash.

Elmer said he heard the powerboat coming around Fraser Point before he saw it enter Konocti Bay, with its running lights visible and the boat itself visible in light that was reflected on it. “I could see he was traveling at a very high rate of speed for nighttime.”

He recalled he told others at the club that night, “There's an idiot for you. He's going to kill himself or somebody else.” Five or six seconds later he heard the loud sound of fiberglass crashing together.

Elmer said he didn't see what the boat hit, because he had watched the powerboat and nothing else ahead of it. He estimated the crash occurred about 15 to 20 seconds after the boat came around Fraser Point.

He grabbed a cell phone and tried to call 911 but couldn't get through. He tried another cell phone and reached a 911 operator, who told him they were fielding other calls. Elmer told the dispatcher he and about 20 other witnesses were there and he suggested having a deputy come out to take their statements.

He said he dispatcher told him, “We've got it covered.” A deputy never came out and Elmer said local law enforcement never called him. Elmer said 10 days after the crash he heard the Sacramento County Sheriff's Office was investigating the incident and left four messages before then-Sgt. Charles Slabaugh called him back.

Hopkins asked questions about Elmer's police background. Elmer started as a police officer with the University of California, Berkeley in 1974 before transferring to the East Bay Regional Park District, the country's largest regional park system, which is located in Alameda and Contra Costa counties. He supervised patrol units in Contra Costa County and did boat patrol as well. He was promoted to sergeant in 1979 and retired in 1987.

Hopkins asked if he is familiar with how dispatchers can be overrun with calls during collisions. Elmer said yes.

Elmer, who has been visiting the Young Scandinavians Club since 1962, said the powerboat “sounded like a dragster” when it came around Fraser Point, traveling in a southwesterly direction.

He said its stern light disappeared in its wake five or six times as it traveled at a 45-degree angle before planing out. Even with the shore lights Elmer said he could clearly see the boat as it accelerated. He said he was afraid the boater was going to hit a log or dock and kill himself.

Elmer said he had a clear view of the whole bay, adding there is a flagpole there that his daughter always puts her underwear up when they visit.

As he watched the powerboat, he saw its lights go up in the air, come down and then it went dark.

Hopkins asked if he had said in other statements that there was no moon. “I don't remember that,” said Elmer.

Elmer said he had been counting to estimate the boat's speed, but couldn't remember at what number he stopped. “When I heard the crash everything else changed.”

Hopkins questioned him further about the 911 calls. Was it his opinion that the sheriff's office needed to send someone to interview he and other witnesses? Yes, said Elmer.

Several men from the club went out in a boat to offer help. “I could tell from the cries of help that somebody was seriously injured,” said Elmer.

“Why did you think they could spare somebody to talk to you?” Hopkins asked.

Elmer said the dispatcher didn't take his name and number when he tried to give it to her. In all Elmer made three 911 calls. “They told me they had it covered. I assumed that meant they were going to come out and talk to me.”

When Haltom attempted to ask Elmer to give an estimate of the powerboat's speed, Hopkins objected, saying, “That's beyond the scope.”

Byrne sustained, saying it's beyond the scope of the expertise for Elmer that had so far been established. “I think you're asking for speculation.”

Haltom asked to offer proof, and then asked Elmer if he had watched boats and estimated speed before. Yes, said Elmer, in the scope of employment. He also received training in estimating boat and traffic speed.

Hopkins still challenged the foundation for the evidence. But when Elmer estimated the boat's speed at between 50 and 55 miles per hour, Byrne allowed it to stand.

Had Elmer paced cars and done radar? Hopkins asked. Yes, said Elmer. He'd also done it on boats.

“You feel pretty comfortable about your ability to fix a speed?” Hopkins asked.

Elmer said yes, noting that he had written “a couple hundred” citations to boats for speeding. Hopkins asked how many were at night. Elmer couldn't say, but he was confident that at night it's even easier to determine speed due by using points of light.

What if the stern drive's engineer said the stern drive would have broken off above a certain speed? Hopkins asked. “I know that guy was going way faster than 40 miles per hour,” Elmer replied.

Knight was invited on nighttime cruise

Julie Knight testified to going to Richmond Park Bar & Grill in the hours before the crash with her friend, Jean Strak.

There they were eating, dancing, singing karaoke and watching the sailboats. She met Dinius there, and he invited her and Strak out on the night cruise but they declined.

Asked if the lights were on, she said, “They were. Absolutely,” noting she waved goodbye to them as they left.

Under Hopkins' questioning, she said said arrived at the restaurant about 7 p.m. Hopkins asked if she and her friend hadn't arrived at either 3 p.m. or 4 p.m. Knight believed it was later in the evening, but said it could have been earlier.

She was drinking champagne that evening when she and Strak met Thornton. They had dinner and she met Dinius at the bar, where he bought her a couple of drinks.

“Was Mr. Dinius being flirtatious with you?” Hopkins asked.

Knight said she didn't think so, saying he was just having fun. They talked but she added, “I wasn't hanging out with him,” because they were with different groups.

She went outside with Strak, who was smoking a cigarette overlooking the boats. “It was getting dark and it was lit up,” Knight said of the sailboat. She didn't recall a motor.

Hopkins asked if she had told an investigator that she got to the restaurant at 3 p.m. and watched the races. “I don't recall talking to anybody.” She did, however, remember, talking to Haltom's investigator more recently.

Statement places Perdock at resort

Next up was Dennis Olson, formerly assistant director of security at Konocti Harbor Resort & Spa. He was transported from the Lake County Jail, where he is serving time in connection with a hit and run that occurred last year. When he appeared before the jury he wore street clothes.

Olson said he knows Perdock – he'd seen him at the resort over the years and their children were on the same sports team – and he saw him at the resort “several times” over a few hours.

He said Perdock was at the main bar and the outdoor Tenderfoot Bar, where he was with a group of five adults, males an females; he didn't recall children being with the group. About 60 people were at the resort that night.

Olson didn't remember seeing Perdock's friend Craig Scovel, who had testified to being at the resort the night of the crash. If he had seen Scovel, who he knew, Olsen said he would have said hello.

He said he recognized Perdock's boat, although he could not describe what it looked like. He saw the boat leaving the resort's harbor but didn't recall Perdock getting into it before it pulled out. Olson said Perdock's group was saying it was “dead” at Konocti Harbor and they were going to Richmond Park.

He said he heard about the crash just after 9 p.m., about 25 minutes after he saw Perdock's boat leave the facility. That's when a 911 dispatcher called the resort's front desk to ask for help with landing a helicopter.

Olson saw Young Scandinavian Club members come in that night, noting they appeared shaken up. Sheriff's deputies also walked through the resort and asked if Perdock had been at Konocti Harbor that night.

Hopkins asked Olson what he remembered about the helicopter landing. Olson said they set up the landing spot in an upper part of the resort where helicopters have landed before. They put down flares and sandbags to hold them down. He said an ambulance came up and a person was loaded onto the helicopter. Later the deputies told him it was a woman who had been involved in a crash involving Perdock.

Did Olson remember the deputies? Olson said there was something said at the crash scene that Perdock was there. “I'm not asking you for the whole conversation, I'm just asking you if you remember who the officers were,” Hopkins said.

Olson didn't recall if the ambulance or helicopter left first. He didn't remember a concert that night.

During testimony, Olson said during his 10 years working at the resort he had seen Perdock drink at the resort during some of his visits, but added that he never saw him drink when he was running his own boat.

Strak recalls a well-lit sailboat

Jean Strak told the jury that she saw the sailboat completely alight before it set out on the lake that night.

She said she and Knight got to Richmond Park at about 3 p.m. or 4 p.m., met a lot of people and talked to Dinius, who invited them on the sailboat. Strak wanted to go on the cruise but Knight didn't want to.

“I saw the lights on,” said Strak, who worked for Bayshore Marine Service and now supervisors Konocti Harbor's marina. If she hadn't seen the lights, “I woulda yelled at 'em.”

Strak, who said the whole boat was lit up with white lights all around it, stated that a uniformed deputy came to her tanning salon in the Clear Lake Riviera the following week to interview her for an hour. She also gave a statement to an insurance adjuster.

Watching the boat pull out as she smoked a cigarette, Strak remembered a “little tiny motor” being used to pull the boat out. At that point, “It wasn't pitch black but it was just after dusk,” she said. “It was to the point where I would have known if the lights weren't on.”

Hopkins – pointing to Sgt. Dennis Ostini, sitting beside him at the prosecution table – asked if he had interviewed Strak at her salon. “No, he was younger,” she said of the deputy who interviewed her, adding, “No offense.'

Strak was positive that she spoke with the deputy within a week of the incident, but she couldn't remember his name.

Witness claims something is “fishy” with case

Peter Erickson was with Elmer at the Young Scandinavians Club the night of the crash. He was helping clean up dishes after dinner, and didn't see the accident, but he responded to it on his boat along with four others.

He said he drove his boat out very slowly to the scene, which he found following Elmer's directions. “It was completely pitch black. You could barely see in front of the boat.”

The night was so dark that they were 60 feet from the sailboat, darkened after the crash, when they came upon it, Erickson said.

He said he asked if everyone on the boat was all right, and they told him they needed help immediately. “It sounded like the guy was crying.”

Two of the men on his boat got onto the sailboat and began cardiopulmonary resuscitation on Thornton while others called 911.

Erickson initially thought the crash site was a crime scene, and he was reluctant to move the boats. He said he was yelling at another boat in front of him to get out of the way as he towed the sailboat to shore and was told the boat couldn't be moved because it was disabled, a reference to Perdock. Hopkins objected and moved to strike the statement, and Byrne sustained.

Erickson towed the sailboat in to Boren Bega, where paramedics cared for Thornton and Ostini interviewed him.

“He told me the lights were off on the sailboat,” Erickson recounted of his interview with Ostini. Another deputy took names and information.

Erickson said he saw Perdock on shore. “He seemed very agitated and he was talking on the cell phone for a large portion of the night.”

He recounted hearing Perdock making a statement about having a soda at Konocti Harbor and going to Richmond Park for a soda.

“It was the most chaotic night of my life,” said Erickson. “It was almost surreal.”

Erickson and his friends later went back to the club and then on to Konocti Harbor, where he had contact with Olson.

Under Hopkins' cross-examination, Erickson maintained he definitely heard Perdock talking about getting a soda at Konocti Harbor while speaking with deputies.

At the scene deputies kept walking up to Perdock and shaking his hand. “I thought that was weird,” he said, so he tried to get closer so he could overhear what was being said.

Erickson believed he saw Perdock at the scene after midnight, and Hopkins asked him if it would be different if there were hospital records showing otherwise. Erickson's response was that everything in the case was “fishy.”

He added, “I don't believe a lot of what's been said,” but he said he had no bias in the case.

Following the crash the men went to Konocti Harbor for a last call, said Erickson. “Our nerves were frayed, our adrenaline was pumping, it was chaotic.”

Hopkins asked if Elmer told him the boat was going 60 miles per hour that night. “He said it was flying,” Erickson said, adding he believed it was going between 50 and 55.

Erickson maintained the boat was going “way too fast for conditions.”

“I know that because there was an accident and people died so it wasn't a safe speed,” he said.

Resort security director says he saw Perdock before the crash

Defense team member Paige Kaneb questioned the next witness, Joe Gliebe, Konocti Harbor's security director since 2004.

Gliebe and Olson worked on the night of the crash, and together assisted with the landing of an air ambulance helicopter that Gliebe said didn't end up transporting a patient, contrary to Olson's earlier statement. He said there also wasn't an ambulance that came to the resort to meet the helicopter.

Gliebe, who said he knows Perdock through the sheriff's office and as a patron, said he saw him earlier that night on a ramp coming from the marina into the resort's outdoor Tenderfoot Bar. It was getting dark and Gliebe said Perdock was a distance away that in court was estimated to be about 20 feet.

He said he waved at Perdock, briefly said hello and continued in his rounds. Gliebe successfully picked Perdock's picture out of a photo lineup presented to him by District Attorney's Office investigators, as Olson also had done.

Gliebe also remembered sheriff's deputies walking through later that night, which he said is common.

Myra Martinelli, a Konocti Harbor security guard who wasn't on duty that night, gave the shortest amount of testimony so far. In only about a minute on the stand, she recounted that she was heading to the resort that night to hang out and heard about the crash on a police scanner about 15 to 20 minutes before arriving.

Martinelli said she got to the resort at about 9:45 p.m., where she interrupted Gliebe and Olson, who were her superiors in the security department, talking about the crash. She said she heard them mention Perdock, a statement to which Hopkins objected. Byrne sustained the objection.

Haltom did not question her further and Hopkins did not cross-examine Martinelli.

Ex-wife disputes Perdock's time line

Perdock's ex-wife, Donna, took the stand Wednesday afternoon. Her testimony contradicted an events time line Russell Perdock submitted to District Attorney's Office Investigator John Flynn.

She said she was at home with her son and his friends, who were over for a slumber party, when she received a cell phone call from her then-husband to tell her about the crash. The call cut off and she couldn't reach him, so she called his mother.

Later, she left after midnight to pick him up from the emergency room at Redbud Community Hospital, since renamed St. Helena Hospital-Clearlake. She found him with sheriff's Chaplain Bob Sola. He was bleeding from the head and briefly told her what happened.

“He was upset. You could see that,” she said.

She said she only ever saw him wear glasses when he came home at night. The doctor had given him a prescription which she thought were for tired eyes.

Haltom asked if Russell Perdock drives fast in his speedboat, and if he finds it exhilarating. Donna Perdock said yes.

The day of the crash began with her making breakfast for their son and helping pack his things for a Scout hike. She disputed Russell Perdock's account in his time line that he made breakfast for his son.

Later, when they gathered for a birthday party for their son at Lower Lake pizza parlor, she said he arrived at 3 p.m., not 4:50 p.m., saying that the time line only allowed for an hour and 10 minutes for a birthday party attended by seven or eight boys. Donna Perdock said he had a beer at the pizza parlor.

She estimated he spent 45 minutes getting his powerboat ready to put in the water. She asked him not to go because she had three of their son's friends staying over for a slumber party, but she said he told her to “deal with it,” and left in the boat at around 7 p.m., not 8 p.m. It was still light at the time.

When it was rough water, Russell Perdock drove his powerboat slower, she said, and faster when it was smooth. She said the boat went on plane at 30 miles per hour.

Haltom briefly recalled Ostini to the stand, asking how long the sailboat was left unattended at the sheriff's Boat Patrol facility on the day following the crash. Ostini said it was from 2 a.m. to about 9 a.m.

“I made a mistake. I should have had somebody on it,” Ostini said.

At the time, he said he didn't think they had the equipment or resources to get the boat out of the water at 2 a.m. “It took multiple people to do that.”

Speed skier says he and Perdock raced their boats in hours before crash

John Jansen, a speed skier, was the day's last witness. He said he spent much of April 29, 2006, on the lake, practicing with friends.

He said he knew of Perdock, who he saw socializing, with a drink in his hand, at Konocti Harbor's Tenderfoot Bar at around 5:30 p.m. or 6 p.m.

Later, at around 7:30 p.m. or 8 p.m., Jansen said he and Perdock raced across the lake to Pine Dell Resort.

It took only a few minutes to get across the lake in Jansen's fast boat, which he said outpaced Perdock's. “I just shut my boat down. There's no way he was catching me.”

After the race, Jansen said Perdock came up to him and they talked briefly about boats before Perdock went on his way. Jansen then headed back to the resort, running his boat around to see if anyone could beat him. Back at Konocti Harbor, he said he didn't see Perdock there.

Hopkins asked Jansen if he knows Denise Rockenstein, reporter for the Clear Lake Observer American and the Lake County Record-Bee, and if he was at the Lakehouse Inn in Clearlake with two friends talking about racing to Pine Dell in Rockenstein's presence. He said no.

Did he tell Rockenstein about the race? Hopkins asked. “She questioned me about it,” said Jansen.

Hopkins asked if Jansen told Rockenstein that he raced with Perdock in the afternoon. “No, I told her it was in the evening.”

At the end of court Judge Byrne told the jurors they were ahead of schedule in the trial, with evidence likely to be completed Aug. 18. Final arguments and instructions are tentatively scheduled for Aug. 20, with the case going to the jury either Aug. 20 or Aug. 21.

“The case will be in your hands and I can't tell you how long it will take,” said Byrne.

Testimony continues Thursday.

Witnesses so far, in order

Day one (following opening statements): James Ziebell, sailor, helped skipper Beats Workin' II in Konocti Cup; Doug Jones, past commodore of local sailing club; Anthony Esposti*, fisherman; Colin Johnson*, fisherman.

Day two: Lake County Sheriff's Det. Jerry Pfann; Andrea Estep*, phlebotomist, St. Helena Hospital-Clearlake (formerly Redbud Community Hospital); former sheriff's Sgt. James Beland; LaDonna Hartman, phlebotomist, Sutter Lakeside Hospital; retired sheriff's Sgt. Mark Hoffman; California Department of Justice criminalist Gregory Priebe, Santa Rosa lab; California Department of Justice criminalist Gary Davis, Sacramento toxicology lab.

Day three: Jennifer Patterson, witnessed crash from Holdener property on lakeshore; Gina Seago, witnessed crash from Holdener property on lakeshore; Jordin Walker, passenger on Russell Perdock's powerboat; James Walker*, high school friend of Perdock's and passenger on his powerboat; sheriff's Deputy Mike Morshed*; sheriff's communications operator Kimberly Erickson; sheriff's Boat Patrol Deputy Lloyd Wells*.

Day four: Craig Woodworth, the District Attorney's Office's acting chief investigator; John Yount, criminalist with the California Department of Justice's Santa Rosa lab; sheriff's Det. Jerry Pfann; Boat Patrol Supervisor Sgt. Dennis Ostini; Lt. Charles Slabaugh of the Sacramento County Sheriff's Office.

Day five: Richard Snyder, retired Mercury Marine engineer; Lt. Charles Slabaugh of the Sacramento County Sheriff's Office.

Day six: Lt. Charles Slabaugh of the Sacramento County Sheriff's Office; California Department of Justice criminalist Toby Baxter; retired Sgt. Wes Frey, Lake County Sheriff's Office; Jeff Holdener, who responded to the crash scene via boat; Stephanie Green, friend of Weber and Thornton, who saw them leave in the sailboat a few hours before the crash; Craig Scovel, friend of Perdock's who assisted in taking his boat and trailer to the sheriff's Boat Patrol building.*

Day seven: Craig Woodworth, the District Attorney's Office's acting chief investigator. The prosecution rested.

Day eight (Defense begins presenting case): Dr. William Chilcott, forensics engineer; Mark Weber, owner of the Beats Workin' II and Lynn Thornton's longtime boyfriend.

Day nine: Mark Weber; Brian Stole, witness at Bayview Estates; Zina Dotti, passenger on the Beats Workin' II; Ed Dominguez, passenger on the Beats Workin' II and Dotti's fiance; Russell Perdock, owner of Baja powerboat that hit the Beats Workin' II.*

Day 10: Hans Peter Elmer, retired police officer, witnessed crash from Young Scandinavians Club; Julie Knight, met Dinius at Richmond Park and saw sailboat leave; Dennis Olson, formerly assistant director of security at Konocti Harbor Resort & Spa; Jean Strak; witness at Richmond Park; Peter Erickson, responded to crash from Young Scandinavians Club; Joe Gliebe, Konocti Harbor's security director; Myra Martinelli, Konocti Harbor security guard; Donna Perdock, Russell Perdock's ex-wife; John Jansen, ski racer.

* = Indicates a witness subject to recall at the request of the defense.

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

SNOW MOUNTAIN WILDERNESS – A 350-acre fire that began burning in the Snow Mountain Wilderness on Wednesday afternoon was fully contained Friday evening.

The Summit Fire was located in the southeastern portion of the Snow Mountain Wilderness on the Grindstone Ranger District of the Mendocino National Forest.

It burned in steep and rugged terrain with brush and scattered timber one mile from the Summit Springs Trailhead, approximately 25 miles west of Stonyford.

Mendocino National Forest spokesperson Tamara Schmidt said firefighters made “excellent” progress on Friday and the fire was declared at 6 p.m. that day.

She said resources will now focus on mop-up and work towards the next stage, which is control of the fire. The expected control date is Tuesday, Aug. 18 at 6 p.m.

The remote terrain required the use of air resources and smokejumpers, with firefighters having to hike in to the scene, as Lake County News reported earlier this week.

Approximately 346 firefighters were assigned to the blaze. Schmidt said total resources on the scene Friday included 13 crews and four helicopters.

Schmidt said it's highly recommended that the public refrain from traveling or hiking in the fire area. Trailheads in close proximity of the fire are posted.

Forest Road M10 is closed to westbound traffic from Davis Flat until further notice, Schmidt said.

With the exception of the Summit Fire, so far this year the Mendocino National Forest has not had an active fire season compared to neighboring forests, Schmidt said.

She reported that last Thursday and Friday four lightning fires were spotted on the east side of the Mendocino National Forest and one fire on the west side. All of the fires were contained while fairly small.

Schmidt said the largest of those blazes was the Government Fire, which grew to seven acres near Government Flat. It was reported Thursday evening, contained Friday and controlled Sunday at 6 p.m.

She said engine crews from the Mendocino National Forest, as well as two handcrews from a nearby Cal Fire station, provided initial attack on the Government Fire.

Additional resources from the Cleveland National Forest, San Bernardino National Forest, Arkansas and Mississippi were instrumental in assisting fire suppression efforts on the Mendocino National Forest last weekend, Schmidt said.

Due to dry conditions, the Mendocino National Forest is currently under fire restrictions to help reduce the risk of human-caused wildfires on the Forest, she said.

For more information regarding the current fire restrictions, contact the Mendocino National Forest at 530-934-3316 or visit .

SNOW MOUNTAIN WILDERNESS – A fire burning in the Snow Mountain Wilderness on the Mendocino National Forest had grown to 350 acres by the end of the day Thursday, forest officials reported.

The Summit Fire, which was reported Wednesday afternoon, was 50 percent contained Thursday night, according to Mendocino National Forest spokesperson Tamara Schmidt. The fire is burning in timber and brush in steep, rugged terrain.

There is no estimated time for containment for the fire, the cause of which is still under investigation, Schmidt said.

The fire, burning in the southeast portion of the Snow Mountain Wilderness on the Grindstone Ranger District of the Mendocino National Forest, is located near the Summit Springs Trailhead approximately 25 miles west of Stonyford, Schmidt said.

The fire is currently holding and there was not much spread Thursday, Schmidt said. Winds were expected to pick up Thursday evening.

Schmidt said there are 16 assigned crews, five helicopters, three air tankers and 346 firefighters on scene. Firefighting resources are continuing direct attack with air support. Helicopters are using water from Lett's Lake to help fight the fire.

There are still concerns about the fire's potential impact on the Stony Creek drainage. Schmidt said resources threatened include watershed, wilderness values and threatened and endangered species.  

A Type 2 Incident Command Team lead by Kent Swartzlander was briefed on the fire at 2 p.m. Thursday in preparation for them to assume management of the fire Thursday night, working with the Mendocino National Forest.

While there are currently no closures or evacuations in the area, Schmidt said the public is asked to be aware of the situation, to respect fire traffic in the area, and to use sound judgment if evacuation is necessary for personal safety.  

She said there is a large amount of fire traffic moving along narrow mountain roads to access the fire and supplies.

LAKEPORT – In between testimony from numerous witnesses on Wednesday, the prosecution, defense and judge in a fatal sailboat crash discussed concerns over a possible indirect contact between a juror and the district attorney, and arguments were presented on whether or not to take the jury on a nighttime boat ride.

In the end, Judge J. Michael Byrne, who is presiding over 41-year-old Bismarck Dinius' trial for felony boating under the influence causing great bodily injury, decided there was no issues with the juror and that he would deny the defense's request for the trip onto the lake.

Dinius' trial is now in its third week. He was at the tiller of Willows resident Mark Weber's sailboat when it was hit by a powerboat driven by Russell Perdock, an off-duty sheriff's chief deputy, on the night of April 29, 2006.

Weber's girlfriend, Lynn Thornton, died of injuries she suffered in the crash, which the prosecution argues was Dinius' fault because he allegedly was steering the boat and was under way without navigation lights, and is alleged to have had a blood alcohol level above the legal limit.

On Wednesday morning, before testimony began, Byrne and the attorneys discussed a letter submitted to them by Carol Stambuk, a friend of Thornton's and the executor of her estate, regarding a potential indirect contact involving District Attorney Jon Hopkins and a juror.

Hopkins said he was having lunch at Angelina's Bakery when he saw an acquaintance who was having lunch with one of the jurors. “I had no conversation with the man I know while he was having lunch,” Hopkins said.

Byrne said he saw no issues, although it was good that it was pointed out. He said he expects it to happen since there are so few places to eat downtown. The judge also was reluctant to question the juror about it due to concerns about making the individual feel pressured.

However, during an afternoon break defense attorney Victor Haltom raised the issue again, saying he had spoken with Stambuk about what she had witnessed.

“I don't want to single out this juror,” Haltom said. “I do think there needs to be an inquiry.”

Byrne had Stambuk take the stand and put her under oath, then began questioning her about what she saw at Angelina's Bakery on Tuesday.

Stambuk said she saw a juror at the next table eating with a man who was not identified. Hopkins came into the restaurant, and the male subject with the juror got up and hugged Hopkins.

As the juror and the man were leaving the restaurant, Hopkins' acquaintance turned back to Hopkins and said, “Good luck with the case,” which Stambuk said she could hear from across the room.

Haltom and Hopkins both took brief turns questioning Stambuk. Hopkins asked her about where each of the parties were in relation to each other and distances. He asked if she was the person who brought the civil lawsuit in relation to Thornton's death. Stambuk, who has been at the trial almost every day, said yes.

Byrne called out the male juror and briefly asked him questions. The man acknowledged seeing Hopkins but said he and the other male didn't discuss the case. “We talked football,” the juror said, noting that he didn't hear his friend say anything to Hopkins.

The judge then asked the juror if he was bothered by the questions, and he replied no.

Afterward, Byrne told the prosecution and defense he was “personally satisfied” there was no issue with the juror.

Attorneys discuss witnesses

Following the last witness Wednesday and after the jury was dismissed for the day, Haltom told the judge he wanted to call to the stand this week Deputy District Attorney John Langan, who formerly had prosecuted the case.

Haltom said he wanted to question Langan about why no report was ever filed on the statement witness Jean Strak said she gave a sheriff's deputy. On Wednesday Strak testified that she had seen the sailboat's lights on when it was leaving Richmond Park Bar & Grill for the night cruise during which it was hit.

“Are we going to call the secretaries, too, to see if they didn't get one?” Hopkins replied.

He called Halton's request “nonsensical,” and announced his intention to call rebuttal witnesses with respect to the issue.

Hopkins said he and his investigators currently are examining the sheriff's automated records to see if a sheriff's deputy ever talked to Strak. He said the issue isn't relevant unless a report was made.

Haltom replied that it's very relevant because part of his case is based on the idea that “these guys were in a campaign, from day one, to say, 'Lights not on, let's protect Perdock.'”

He also wanteda former District Attorney's Office employee who now works in Mendocino County available for testimony. Hopkins said the man will appear.

The defense's case could rest Thursday, Haltom said.

Judge turns down jury view

Haltom argued for taking the jury out on pontoon boats to see the effect of background shore lights at night. If that wasn't approved, he wanted to take them to the Young Scandinavians Club, where several people reportedly saw the crash, and Bayview or Boren Bega, where the damaged boats were towed.

Hopkins argued that Haltom hadn't laid the foundation for such a trip. He said there was no scientific information to justify it from defense expert Dr. William Chilcott, whose testimony, Hopkins said, “is way up for grabs.”

He asserted, “This is an experiment,” not a jury view.

Witnesses have stated they saw the lights on the sailboat about 45 minutes before the collision, but not during, said Hopkins. He also questioned Strak's testimony, which he said contradicted everyone else's because she had stated the boat was lit up “like a Christmas tree.”

He said the jury's view would not be the same as that of the parties on the night of the crash. He cited several California Supreme Court cases – spanning between 1966 and 2002 – to prove his point. As he started presenting appellate court cases Byrne stopped him and said the Supreme Court cases were enough.

“It comes down to discretion,” said Byrne.

There also are three main factors to consider – convenience, appropriate value, and diagrams and physical evidence that can be substituted for the actual viewing, Byrne said.

Haltom said he didn't need to lay a foundation for the importance of seeing the shore lights, because the case itself has laid them.

Byrne said he didn't see the value of going to the Young Scandinavians Club because the testimony of Hans Peter Elmer, one of the witnesses from that location, didn't address shore lights.

If the conditions could be duplicated, Byrne said the trip would be valuable, but he said at best he believed it would end up being an experiment, because he didn't think they could get an exact location on the crash. He also suggested there might be additional safety issues, with more boats on the water at this time of year.

He said the sunset in the next few days would be different from the day of the crash. “We have information it was pitch black that night,” he said, with only one witness recalling a sliver of a moon.

Another concern is the difficulty in keeping jurors from discussing such a trip, because they'll want to talk and ask questions, said Byrne.

Deciding that the witnesses, diagrams and photos were sufficient at the time, Byrne said, “At this time I'll exercise my discretion and deny the request.”

According to the US Naval Observatory's online database, the nighttime conditions on Tuesday, Aug. 18, will closely resemble those of April 29, 2006. To see an assessment of those similar conditions, see

Prosecution, defense argue final motions before Dinius trial begins .

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

MIDDLETOWN – A Hidden Valley Lake man has been arrested in connection with a rape that is alleged to have occurred late last month.

John Wesley Dunn, 25, is being held at the Lake County Jail, with bail set at $350,000.

He was arrested Aug. 7 on a felony charge of kidnapping with the intent to commit rape.

Court records show that he's facing additional felony charges of rape while using drugs to prevent resisting and assault with the intent to commit a crime.

Dunn, who was arraigned on Monday, is scheduled to appear before Judge Stephen Hedstrom at 9 a.m. Monday, Aug. 17, to enter a plea.

A 25-year-old Hidden Valley Lake woman had reported to the Lake Count Sheriff's Office on Aug. 1 that she had been raped the previous night, as Lake County News has reported.

Sheriff's Capt. James Bauman said Friday that the woman had met friends and family members for drinks at Twin Pine Casino in Middletown on the evening of July 31, hours before the incident.

Dunn, reported to be an acquaintance of the victim, also had been at the casino that night, said Bauman, and had allegedly offered to take the woman home when she apparently had too much to drink.

On Aug. 6, following several days of further investigation, detectives with the Sheriff’s Major Crimes Unit secured an arrest warrant and accompanying search warrant for Dunn.

Bauman said Dunn, an assistant golf pro, was arrested at his place of employment in Hidden Valley Lake the following day without incident. The search warrant was executed on his home and vehicle that same day.

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

UKIAH – An Upper Lake man suffered some slight injuries as the result of a three-vehicle collision that occurred in Ukiah on Wednesday.

George Canovas, 50, was treated at Ukiah Valley Medical Center for a complaint of neck and shoulder pain, according to the California Highway Patrol's Ukiah office.

Canovas, along with 30-year-old Travis Harrel of Ukiah, was riding in a 1998 Plymouth Voyager driven by Ukiah resident Steven Berry, 51, when the crash occurred on Highway 101 at the N. State Street ramp at 4:45 p.m., the CHP reported.

While merging onto northbound Highway 101 from N. State Street, 83-year-old Ralph Olson of Redwood Valley slowed his 2003 Pontiac Grand Am to move into traffic, according to the CHP.

Berry, who was behind Olson, came to a quick stop to avoid hitting the Grand Am, the report noted.

The CHP said Richard Van Buren of Fort Bragg was behind Berry's vehicle in a 2005 Ford Expedition. He was looking over his shoulder at oncoming traffic and collided with the rear of Berry's Voyager. The collision caused the front of Berry's vehicle to hit the back of Olson's.

Besides Canovas, no injuries were reported. The CHP said all of the drivers and passengers were wearing their safety belts.

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

LAKE COUNTY – As the remnants of Tropical Storm Felicia moved onshore with high-level clouds on Wednesday, temperatures are forecast to top off near the average temperature of 93 on both Thursday and Friday, with a return to warmer temperatures through the weekend.

The National Weather Service in Sacramento (NWS) expects highs in the mid-90s in Lake County today through Saturday, with temperatures on the cooler side at lower elevations.

Average temperatures for today include a low of 53 degrees and a high of 93 degrees. The record high for Aug. 13 was 111 degrees in 1933 the record low was 41 degrees in 1921.

The gusty afternoon winds on Tuesday and Wednesday cleared out the upper-level haze that the recent weather patterns have brought in to the Clear Lake basin and much of Northern California from fires burning in Shasta and Santa Barbara counties.

However, the Summit fire in nearby Colusa County in the Mendocino National forest, which had increased to 40 acres by 6:30 p.m. last night according to Cal Fire, may create more haze if not contained soon.

Gusty afternoon winds are expected to continue, according to the NWS today and Friday, but Saturday and Sunday should be calm.

Highs for Saturday are predicted to be in the mid-90s and a few degrees warmer on Sunday. Low overnight temperatures are expected near 60.

For up-to-the-minute weather and wildfire information, visit our homepage at .

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

LAKE COUNTY – The California Highway Patrol (CHP) reminds motorists the summer heat can quickly create deadly conditions inside a vehicle, especially for children.

“As a driver, you are responsible for the safety of your passengers both while the vehicle is running and when it is parked,” said CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow. “Carelessness, can lead to tragedy.”

Research by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) in 2007 showed that for children hyperthermia (heat-stroke) is the leading cause of non-crash vehicle deaths.

Every year in the United States, an average of 27 children die as a result of hyperthermia or excessive heat while in a vehicle.

“If you see a child unattended in a vehicle call 911 immediately,” said Commissioner Farrow. “Not only is leaving a child in a vehicle unattended dangerous, under California law it is illegal.”

On Jan. 1, 2002, the Unattended Child in Motor Vehicle Safety Act, took effect.

The law became known as “Kaitlyn’s Law” in memory of 6-month-old Kaitlyn Russell of Corona, who died Aug. 15, 2000, after being left alone in her babysitter’s car for about two hours.

“Kaitlyn’s Law” makes it an infraction, punishable by a fine of $100 for any parent, legal guardian, or other person responsible for a child 6 years of age or younger, to leave that child unattended in a vehicle without the supervision of someone at least 12 years of age or older.

The national, nonprofit organization, 4 R Kids Sake, has designated August as “Purple Ribbon Month,” to raise awareness and educate the public about the dangers of leaving a child unattended in or around a motor vehicle.

In recognition of “Purple Ribbon Month,” the CHP will attach a purple ribbon to the antenna of its patrol cars.

“Hopefully by focusing attention on this issue, we can prevent the senseless loss of innocent lives in the future,” added Commissioner Farrow.

UKIAH – Toxicology results released Wednesday reveal that a driver who caused a fatal May collision had nearly three times the legal blood alcohol level and also tested positive for marijuana.

The California Highway Patrol's Ukiah office said the crash occurred just after 6:30 p.m. May 28 on Highway 101 north of N. State Street.

The head-on collision claimed the lives of Catherine Denise Shaw, 48, of Ukiah and Michael Wayne Berry, 63, of Redding. Press reports at the time stated that Shaw, who had been seen driving recklessly, had to be identified by dental records after her car burst into flames.

Berry's wife, Donna Marie Berry, 60, sustained major injuries in the collision, the CHP reported.

Officials said Shaw was determined to have a blood alcohol level of 0.22 at the time of the collision. She also tested positive for Delta-9 THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. The state's legal limit for blood alcohol concentration is 0.08.

Shaw was determined to be the cause of the collision due to driving under the influence with the associated factor of driving at an unsafe speed for conditions, the CHP said.

“Every year, members of our community are needlessly maimed and killed on our roads,” said CHP Capt. Ray Madrigal. “Our goal is to ensure the safe passage of each and every motorist by targeting roads where there is a high frequency of drunk driving.”

Madrigal said sobriety checkpoints, saturation patrols and educational presentations on driving under the influence are some of the tools the CHP uses to address driving drunk.

A helicopter making a water drop on a hot spot in the Hartmann Incident. Photo by Rick Hamilton.




HIDDEN VALLEY LAKE – South Lake County Fire and Cal Fire quickly subdued a small grass fire that broke out near Hidden Valley Lake Wednesday afternoon.

The two-acre Hartmann Incident was located on the corner of Hartmann Road and Highway 29. Firefighters were dispatched at 1:38 p.m., said Cal Fire Capt. Paul Duncan.

At one point a lot of resources were assigned to the fire as part of Cal Fire's standard response, including one air attack, two tankers to drop retardant, one helicopter with eight personnel, six engines and two dozers. Duncan said a total of 28 personnel were on scene.

He said Cal Fire responded along with South Lake County Fire.

The fire, which was located in grass and brush, was completely out by 2 p.m., Duncan said.

No cause has been reported, Duncan said.

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




A picture of the fire taken from the top of Powderhorn Road in Hidden Valley Lake. A helicopter is shown dumping water on the fire at the corner of Highway 29 and Hartmann Road. Photo by Tina Hopper.




A Cal Fire plane overhead during the Hartmann Incident. Photo by Rick Hamilton.




The Hartmann Incident, pictured from Coyle Springs Road. Photo by Eric Soderstrom.

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