Tuesday, 23 July 2024


LAKEPORT – A jury on Tuesday heard testimony from an engineer and a lead investigator who discussed speed and the conditions of two boats following a fatal April 2006 boat crash.

District Attorney Jon Hopkins called the two witnesses as he continued to build his case against Bismarck Dinius, 41, of Carmichael.

Dinius is charged with felony boating under the influence with great bodily injury. The prosecution alleges that Dinius, while steering a sailboat owned by Willows Mark Weber, was under way without navigation lights and also was alleged to have had a blood alcohol of 0.12 on the night of April 29, 2006.

The sailboat was hit by a powerboat driven by an off-duty sheriff's chief deputy, Russell Perdock, who was not charged in the case. Weber's girlfriend, Lynn Thornton, 51, died in the crash.

The day's testimony began close to 9:15 a.m.. Shortly before that, Judge J. Michael Byrne scolded both Hopkins and defense attorney Victor Haltom about not being ready to go at 9 a.m. He said he had suggested both be in court by 8:45 a.m. in order to be ready to go.

However, Haltom said Hopkins had just handed him new discovery, specifically, a CD of photos that Haltom said he needed to be able to see them before testimony began. Hopkins also appeared to be running behind at the start of the day as he prepared to begin calling witnesses.

At the start of court Tuesday, Hopkins changed witness order. Although on Friday Lt. Charles Slabaugh of the Sacramento County Sheriff's Office had been on the stand land and was expected to continue testimony, Hopkins wanted to bring on another expert due to scheduling issues, which the court approved.

Hopkins' first witness of the day was Richard Snyder, a retired engineer with Mercury Marine, the company that built the engine on Perdock's 24-foot Baja Outlaw powerboat.

Snyder, who worked with Mercury Marine from February of 1959 until his 2001 retirement, has remained a consultant with the company. While actively working for Mercury Marine, he was an expert in propellers, gear cases and products testing, and was director of product safety. He also was on a small team that designed the company's first stern drive in 1961.

In his career Snyder has amassed 11 patents, testified in 41 trials and given 107 depositions, he told the court Tuesday.

On Monday, Snyder went to the sheriff's Boat Patrol facility at Braito's Marina on Buckingham to look at the sailboat and powerboat involved in the crash. He was accompanied by several people including Hopkins, Slabaugh, Boat Patrol Supervisor Sgt. Dennis Ostini and District Attorney's Investigator Craig Woodworth as he looked over the boats.

Snyder said he's been working on boating safety for many years. He worked closely with Mercury Marine's legal department in responding to civil lawsuits. He's also worked with national boating organizations on safety and regulations.

“I am always trying to find ways to reduce accidents and reduce injuries,” he said.

He also was involved with conducting a series of impact tests in 1999 to look at the resulting damage in crashes at 20, 25 and 30 miles per hour. Most of the crashes involved one boat going over another.

At 20 miles per hour, a boat would hit and drag its gear case over the other boat. At 25 miles per hour, the gear case might clear and not leave any marks. “Thirty was just way more of the same,” Snyder said, noting the “bullet” boat – the one hitting – would pass completely over the target boat.

They didn't look at collisions at speeds above 30 miles per hour, Snyder said. “They start all looking the same after that.”

Snyder said that the Baja's stern drive is powered by an inboard engine originally made by Chevrolet.

During the tests they found that the stern drive's gimbal ring shattered and the gear case fell off if there was a 45 mile per hour or more differential between the speed of the two boats involved, Snyder said.

If there had been more than a 45 mile per hour differential when Perdock's power boat hit the sailboat, Snyder estimated the stern drive should have broken off.

By hitting near the starboard stern of the sailboat and going diagonally over, the Baja had a longer way to travel, Snyder explained.

At the time of impact the Baja appeared to be on a slight left turn, Snyder said. During impact, the Baja's propeller left a number of marks on the sailboat's mast.

Hopkins asked if the stern drive broke during the collision. Snyder said there didn't appear to be breakage.

At Hopkins' request, Snyder then calculated the powerboat's speed at 3,000 revolutions per minute, arriving at roughly 35 miles per hour, Snyder said.

Snyder said you can't estimate boat speed based on the propeller marks on the mast without knows the engine's RPMs. He could only look at the circumstances and make an educated guess unless the boat had an engine black box, one of Snyder's patents, that would keep a running memory of the RPMs.

Doing another set of calculations, Snyder estimated that the Baja could have been going 25 miles per hour when its propeller marked up the sailboat's mast, which already had been knocked over by the impact with the powerboat.

Snyder estimated that the impact could have slowed the Baja 10 to 15 miles per hour, putting it in the 40 to 50 mile per hour range at impact.

Could the boat have been going 35? Hopkins asked. Snyder said he believed that was unlikely given that the powerboat sailed over and didn't rip off the sailboat's stanchions – which are upright posts which hold lifelines.

Hopkins had Snyder explain a series of pictures put on an overhead projector, including several of the Baja and the sailboat, both with damage. The Baja had a black smear from the sailboat's stern light's plastic housing extending down its bow side. The sailboat had significant damage along its starboard rear.

Snyder said the Baja wasn't going perfectly straight, and that something caused the boat to rotate slightly, possibly Perdock pulling the wheel down, instinctively or not, as the powerboat started to go over the sailboat.

Another picture showed ropes wound tightly around the Baja's prop. “This would have been dead in the water at this point,” said Snyder.

If the Baja was traveling between 20 and 25 miles per hour, what would Snyder have expected to see? Hopkins asked.

Snyder said the sailboat's stanchions would have been taken off. “It would have been significantly different from the way it turned out.”

Was the impact enough to cause serious injury to a person sitting at the right rear corner of the boat? Hopkins asked. “Without question,” Snyder said.

During cross-examination, Haltom asked Snyder when he was first contacted by the District Attorney's Office. About a month ago, Snyder said.

Haltom asked if Snyder knew what part of the sailboat was embedded in the Baja's bow. Snyder said he didn't know. Snyder also couldn't say for sure which boat would have sat higher in the water.

Using a projector, Haltom showed a picture of the sailboat's broken mast with seven propeller marks on it. Snyder said the distance between the marks could be affected by whether or not the mast had been rigidly fixed. “There's some dynamic things happening here.”

Haltom noted there was some material between the strike marks. Could it have been the gel coat from the bottom of the Baja? Snyder didn't know.

Snyder emphasized, however, that the mast would have had to have been lying parallel to the path of the Baja for the propeller to make the marks. He didn't appear to think the marks could have been made afterward, by an officer towing the boat.

Haltom asked about the Baja turning. Snyder said it didn't necessarily have to have happened at impact. Would the boat's side have risen up if someone turned, say, in response to a fisherman flashing a light at the operator? Haltom asked. Snyder said it could have risen up.

The longer the boat vaults over another boat, the faster it was going, right? Haltom asked. Yes, said Snyder. Haltom asked if Snyder had heard that the Baja had landed on the other side of the sailboat and bounced. Snyder said that's not uncommon and wouldn't affect his speed analysis.

Haltom asked if the Baja was going between 40 and 50 miles per hour at impact? Snyder replied yes.

At Haltom's request, Snyder then did calculations of RPMs at 50 miles per hour, estimating 4,300 RPMs.

Haltom questioned Snyder about visibility standards he had mentioned earlier relating to the American Boat and Yacht Council. Snyder said that group's H1 visibility standard, which requires a minimum of four boat lengths of visibility in front of the boat's bow to pass a standards of visibility.

“Day or night?” asked Haltom.

“It has to be seeable,” said Snyder, explaining that, during daylight, nothing – the bow or anything else – should block the driver's view.

Snyder said at a 45-mile-per-hour differential between the speed of the two boats, he would expect the gimbal ring to fail. If the sailboat was going 5 miles per hour, that would put the powerboat's speed at a maximum of 50 miles per hour.

He explained that a side impact on the stern drive can cause more damage than a direct hit, although that has not been tested.

However, adding in side load Snyder said, “If it has any effect at all I think it would lower the speed.”

Snyder said if the Baja had been going 55 miles per hour he would have expected gimbal failure.

“That's why my top-end estimate was 50, because it didn't break,” he said.

After court reconvened for the afternoon, Hopkins asked about what it would take for the powerboat to make a sharp left turn and still hit the sailboat. Snyder said it would have had to have come across the back of the sailboat, and making such a turn would have dipped the side of the boat, making a stern light more visible.

Would traveling at 40 to 50 miles per hour create any bow visibility problems with seeing the stern light, asked Hopkins. Snyder said there would be no issues. The Baja has some of the best visibility possible.

Haltom asked Snyder about the impacts of shore lights on nighttime boating.

“That issue is a major issue with nighttime boating and it's been talked about for years and years by the people I work with,” said Snyder, adding it's conceivable that you can confuse a white boat light and a white shore light.

Haltom asked if that confusion would be enhanced if a person who is supposed to wear prescription glasses wasn't wearing them. Hopkins objected; Byrne suggested Haltom ask it different. He asked if not wearing glasses would create visibility problems. Snyder said he couldn't answer that, because he also has glasses nighttime driving but doesn't notice a very large difference.

Snyder said he frequently drives a powerboat at night, sometimes as fast as 60 miles per hour, on Lake Winnebago in Wisconsin, where he lives. Driving that fast, he noted, doesn't bother him. He said he couldn't put a universal maximum speed on nighttime boating.

Under Hopkins' questioning Snyder said shore lights wouldn't be a problem for navigating if the lights were a mile or a half-mile away and another boat was 100 yards away. In those cases, there shouldn't be a problem differentiating between a boat and the shore.

Slabaugh returns to the stand; discusses investigation

Following Snyder, Hopkins recalled Lt. Charles Slabaugh to the stand. Slabaugh was brought in from the Sacramento County Sheriff's Office to assist in the original investigation.

He explained beginning his investigation and assessing the damage to the boat. The sailboat had its railings ripped off, a damaged hatch, a knocked down back bulkhead, debris in the cabin and on the deck, propeller marks and other destruction. When the powerboat went over the sailboat it struck the sailboat's Honda outboard engine, which left marks on the powerboat.

Haltom asked if Slabaugh was at the boat barn on Monday with Snyder. He said yes. Haltom asked if they had any disagreements. They didn't, said Slabaugh.

When Haltom tried asking Slabaugh a series of questions about his time out on Clear Lake on the night of May 2, 2006, and his estimate of the location of the crash, he ran into repeated and successful objections from Hopkins.

Slabaugh went out that day on the lake with Ostini twice – once during the daytime and again at about 9 p.m., close to the time the crash took place days before.

“It got dark relatively quickly,” he said, recounting there was a crescent moon as they came around Fraser Point.

“There was quite a bit of lighting on the shoreline from Fraser Point as it circles around to some of the resorts on the other side,” he said.

Slabaugh, who helped cover BoardStock, said he'd seen many boat travel at high speeds at night on the lake. At a great distance it could take a moment or two to distinguish navigation lights from shore lights.

On the night he was out with Ostini, they saw a bow light about 300 yards away from their boat; the other boat was about 150 yards offshore, he estimated.

Under Hopkins' questioning, Slabaugh confirmed that when he worked on the case he consulted with Wes Dodd, his friend and instructor in boating investigations. Dodd now is working with Dinius' defense team.

Slabaugh asked Dodd to look at his original report and sent it to him, asking for his feedback. They talked afterward on the phone.

Hopkins asked Slabaugh if Dodd read his report. Haltom objected, saying there had been an in limine motion to exclude that information; Hopkins said the two things weren't related. The judge had them approach the bench to discuss it and afterward allowed Hopkins to ask the question.

The prosecutor then handed to Slabaugh a two-page fax from Dodd, sent to Slabaugh on May 11, 2006. Hopkins asked Slabaugh if, based on that fax – the contents of which weren't stated in court – Slabaugh changed his report. No, Slabaugh replied.

In further cross-examination of Slabaugh, Haltom asked him if he had examined the sailboat's cabin lights. He hadn't but at the time of the preliminary hearing last summer he had one of the local investigators look at them. When Haltom asked why that step was taken two years after the crash, Hopkins objected, saying it was irrelevant and Byrne sustained.

Was Slabaugh aware that people had seen the cabin lights? Hopkins objected and Byrne sustained. Haltom approached the bench to offer proof of the value of the questioning.

He was allowed to continue his questioning, and asked if the cabin lights were on at the time of the crash could they been seen from a distance? Hopkins objected, saying it was hypothetical. When Haltom tried to ask the question in another way, Hopkins again objected, saying there were too many hypothetical aspects to his question. At that point, Byrne overruled.

Haltom asked if cabin lights provide illumination; yes, inside a vessel, said Slabaugh. On a dark light is that illumination detectable? He asked. Hopkins objected, saying it was again hypothetical.

Had Slabaugh ever seen a cabin light illuminate a sail? No, he replied. When Haltom asked Slabaugh how much sailboat experience he had, he said very little.

Haltom asked Slabaugh the scope of his investigation. He said he did the reconstruction of the crash scene and investigation. At first he thought he would do the interviews, but as the investigation went on and took more time, and since Slabaugh had his own unit to oversee in Sacramento, he asked the Lake County Sheriff's Office to continue to do the interviews because it turned out “there were a few more than they had originally taken.”

Slabaugh did conduct a few interviews, including a face-to-face interview with Perdock and phone interviews for Hans Peter Elmer and Karen Elmer.

Haltom asked if Slabaugh was brought in due to concerns about the appearance of impropriety due to the sheriff's office investigating one of its own. Slabaugh said yes.

He was asked if he stated, “It was their investigation,” referring to the sheriff's office. Slabaugh said yes. Reading to him from a deposition in the civil case, Haltom quoted Slabaugh as saying he had to trust the local officers.

Slabaugh attempted to pinpoint a location for the crash, but when Haltom questioned him about it Hopkins objected repeatedly, saying it was based on hearsay. Byrne sustained, questioning Slabaugh's expertise in answering the question.

Haltom asked if Slabaugh had training in crash reconstructions. Yes, he said. “Were you trying to determine the location of the accident in this case?” Yes, Slabaugh said.

Slabaugh also acknowledged receiving information about the speed of Perdock's boat, with estimates ranging between 40 and 45 and 50 and 55 miles per hour. He used 40 miles per hour as his baseline.

Perdock told Slabaugh that the crash happened about a minute after he rounded Fraser Point. What was the distance of the crash from Fraser Point? Haltom asked. Hopkins objected, saying it was a speculative question.

Slabaugh spoke to Sheriff Rod Mitchell during the investigation. He said Mitchell thanked him for taking the time to do the work.

When Haltom asked about the light on May 2, 2006, compared to the night of the crash, Hopkins objected. Byrne instructed Haltom to ask the question as a hypothetical, so Haltom asked if there would be more moonlight with a bigger moon. Hopkins objected once again, pointing to there being a different phase of the moon when Slabaugh was out.

Hopkins also objected when Haltom attempted to get Slabaugh to state a safe speed for traveling on the lake the night we was out with Ostini. Slabaugh said that it was very difficult to see.

The day ended with Haltom asking Slabaugh a series of questions about navigation rules, including the rule for responsibility of a vessel.

“Who is the master of the boat?” he asked.

Slabaugh responded that, in maritime law, the master can be an absent owner or person who is on board directing the crew but who doesn't have actual help control. Haltom asked if the owner is usually the master. Yes, Slabaugh replied.

They also briefly discussed lookout and safe speed rules, and assessing risk of collision before court adjourned at about 4:10 p.m.

Once the jury was dismissed, Byrne and the attorneys discussed the objections to Haltom's questions, which Byrne said was an issue of “bringing things in that are beyond the scope.”

Explaining his issues, Hopkins said, “Since when are you entitled to take a witness from the prosecution and make it your own witness during the people's case when it's not within the scope of what that witness has testified to?”

During the discussion, Haltom also wanted to be able to ask the jury if they were willing to take a trip out on the lake at night to get a sense of conditions and to take part in the “jury view.” Hopkins said he didn't want to even pose the question until they determined there was adequate foundation in the case to justify taking the trip.

Testimony continues on Wednesday.

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

LAKE COUNTY – If Monday’s high temperatures in the mid-80s felt a little cooler, get ready for even lower temperatures – and the possibility of rain, thunderstorms and lightening-induced wildfires – as the week progresses in Lake County and much of Northern California, according to the National Weather Service in Sacramento.

The National Weather Service in Sacramento (NWS) has issued a fire weather watch beginning Wednesday afternoon through Thursday evening as a very strong and unusual (for this time of year) low pressure system moves inland.

As the system moves closer to the coastline on Wednesday, chances for thunderstorms along the coastal range of mountains will increase, bringing with it the possibility of lightening-induced wildfires.

On Tuesday, high temperatures are forecast to reach the low- to mid-80s, with temperatures overnight in the low 50s according to the NWS.

As Wednesday progresses and the low pressure system moves inland and past the Coastal mountain range, clouds will increase in Lake County along with the chance for thunderstorms and dry lightening strikes – but chances of precipitation are more likely in higher elevations according to the NWS.

A 20- to 30-percent chance of thunderstorm activity begins Wednesday evening and lasts throughout Thursday in Lake County, according to the NWS, with lesser chances for rain in Lower Lake and Middletown, as lower and middle elevations will have an increased possibility of dry lightening strikes and less chance of precipitation.

High daytime temperatures are forecast to top off around 80 degrees Wednesday through Friday, the NWS states, well below the average August temperatures for Lake County, which should be in the mid- to upper-90s.

A fire weather watch means that critical fire weather conditions are possible per the NWS, which recommends listening for later forecasts that could adjust the timing of the weather event and for possible red flag warnings.

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

Mike Rogers, Calpine's senior vice president, accepted the award from Director Bridgett Luther, Department of Conservation, on Thursday, July 30, 2009. Courtesy photo.

MIDDLETOWN – For the eighth year in a row, Calpine’s geothermal operations at The Geysers is the winner of the California Department of Conservation (DOC) award for its ongoing commitment to safety and the environment and its excellence in lease maintenance.

“Renewable energy is vital to California’s future, and it is encouraging that Calpine, the nation’s largest geothermal producer, consistently maintains its facility at The Geysers in an environmentally sound manner. The Department of Conservation is pleased to recognize companies that manage their facilities in a responsible way and congratulates Calpine on its eighth consecutive lease award,” said DOC Director Bridgett Luther.

Mike Rogers, Calpine’s Senior vice president, geothermal region, accepted the award on behalf of Calpine from Ms. Luther.

“We are very pleased that for the eighth year in a row The Geysers has been recognized for exemplary performance in maintaining leases that are environmentally clean and safe,” Rogers said. “We take seriously our responsibilities to put forth our best efforts to protect the environment and act as good neighbors in the community. This award is a testament to the team spirit and effort by our employees at The Geysers.”

District 1 Supervisor Jim Comstock appeared to offer a congratulatory speech and Calpine received a Joint Certificate of Special Recognition from Assemblymember Noreen Evans and Senator Patricia Wiggins.

Calpine currently owns and operates 15 geothermal plants at The Geysers, providing approximately 725 megawatts of generating capacity to northern California’s power grid.

Calpine is the largest producer of electricity from geothermal resources in the United States. Its operation at The Geysers accounts for about 20 percent of the renewable power produced in California.

To learn more about The Geysers and about geothermal energy, The Geysers Visitor Center is open to the public 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Wednesday to Saturday, at 15500 Central Park Road, Middletown. Call 1-866-GEYSERS for more information. Visit them on the Web at http://www.geysers.com .

LAKE COUNTY – A Lucerne man has been sentenced for an animal cruelty case involving an injured dog first reported last year.

Paul Jon Westergren pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor violation of Penal Code section 597(b), subjecting an animal to needless suffering or cruelty, according to Chief Deputy District Attorney Richard Hinchcliff. Deputy District Attorney Dan Moffatt prosecuted the case.

Dixie the pit bull was rescued from Westergren's home last summer, as Lake County News first reported last year.

Just 6 months old at the time, Dixie had been hit by a semi truck two days earlier and been left to cry in pain in Westergren's yard for two days while she suffered from a crushed pelvis and broken leg. She also had internal nerve damage and injuries to her bowel and urinary tracts.

Animal Care and Control received a call about the dog on June 27, 2008, and Officer Eric Wood went to Westergren's home, found Dixie and saw that Westergren had not sought medical care for her, as is required by law. The dog was injured so badly she hadn't been able to urinate in two days.

Dixie was taken to Wasson Memorial Veterinary Clinic in Lakeport where she underwent several surgeries to repair her shattered hip and repair the nerve damage.

Eventually, her right back leg had to be amputated because the leg did not heal right and was dragging the ground, causing sores on her foot and creating the possibility of infection.

Dixie has since gone to a new home out of county, where she lives with a loving new owner and several canine friends.

However, Animal Care and Control Deputy Director Bill Davidson said she has had continued health problems because of infections, and her situation is “touch and go.”

Hinchcliff said Westergren was prosecuted for not getting the dog prompt medical attention for two days and allowing her to suffer.

Judge Richard Martin sentenced Westergren to three years probation, 80 hours work service, search condition for residence, and a term and condition is he possess no pets for three years, Hinchcliff said.

In addition, Hinchcliff said Westergren will be ordered to pay restitution for vet bills for the animal and fined $100.

Hinchcliff said he thinks the sentence is a fairly typical one, if there is such a thing in animal cruelty cases.

He said if Westergren had caused the broken hip through abuse, he likely would have been charged with a felony rather than a misdemeanor, leading to a more severe sentence.

Westergren is looking at hefty restitution for Dixie's vet bills. Davidson told Lake County News last week that Dixie's care amounted to about $7,000, covering the surgeries and a rare internal bacterial infection she contracted.

Davidson said Westergren's overall sentence differed slightly from that of a woman convicted of neglect in the case of Hero, a German shepherd impounded in the summer of 2006 after he was found to be severely emaciated, with bleeding feet filled with foxtails.

Martin sentenced Donna Mae Heath to 180 days in the county jail for animal neglect and failure to provide medical care. She also was required to pay nearly $4,000 in restitution for the dog's vet bills, couldn't own an animal for three years and received three years formal probation.

The case involving “Luke,” a 10-year-old German shepherd rescued from a home in July 2008, also went to the District Attorney's Office for prosecution, said Davidson, but there has been no resolution in that case yet.

Luke, who was found unable to stand, with no food or water in the hot sun, had hair matted with foxtails and stickers and open wounds filled with maggots. He eventually had to be put down because he couldn't be rehabilitated, as Lake County News has reported.

Another case involving a dog named “Nellie,” found severely emaciated at her Lower Lake home last August, has gone to the District Attorney's Office. Davidson said she was adopted out to a new home but was put down recently due to continuing health problems.

Two other dog abuse cases from last year, those of Teiya, a pit bull whose owner beat her until her leg was broken, and a puppy named Sugar, whose juvenile owner picked her up and threw her, breaking her front elbow, didn't end up being prosecuted, Davidson said.

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

Smokey Robinson had the crowd singing with him at his concert at Konocti Harbor Resort & Spa on Friday, July 31, 2009. Photo by Gail Salituri.


KELSEYVILLE – “I am the Negro Hip-Hop Opera Singer,” intoned the unrated comedian who opened for Smokey Robinson at Konocti Harbor Spa & Resort Friday night. He was bad and I don’t mean good.

Good, I thought, the show can only get better from here. There was a 30-minute delay between the new-material-needin’ comic and the star of the show.

As fate would have it, I was sitting next to guitarist Robert Bowle’s wife, Izumi, who filled me in on the departure of the legendary Marv Tauplin who was Smokey Robinson & The Miracles' original guitarist from 1959 until last year. It is the sweet strains of Tauplin’s arpeggios you can still hear on the original recorded versions of “Tracks Of My Tears” and so many others.

As I chatted with Izumi, the band, background singers and dancers assembled on stage. Everyone was dressed in white and the six-piece band somehow seems immediately in tune. The crowd had already forgotten the comedian.

At 8:45 p.m. the stage lights shifted and suddenly the thunderous roto-tommed intro to “Going To A Go Go” filled the air. A very svelte Smokey Robinson kinda cha-cha-cha’d on stage singing. He is, as we used to say when he first became my favorite artist, “tabbed down.” The suit, though stage attire, was a resplendent champagne in color and I coveted it immediately.

Well there a brand new place I’ve found

Where people go for miles around ...”

After an abbreviated version of the opening song the band segues into “Second That Emotion” and the crowd singing along, is changed. We become the Miracles and stayed that way the whole show.

Smokey acknowledged us at the end of the number and noted, “We’ve got some singers out there. You sound good. Let’s sing another one.”

“You Really Got A Hold On Me,” though simply constructed with its single note piano intro and hook-laden lyrics, still resonated powerfully with the adolescent psyche of the baby boomers in attendance. For me, the song brought back memories of how we learned the notes to that song in band class in junior high school when we were supposed to be learning “March To Aida.”

Soft and warm, a quiet storm

Quiet as when flowers talk at break of dawn, break of dawn …”

“Quiet Storm” was a song released by Smokey Robinson after he left the Miracles. Another powerful gem from Smokey’s pen, “Quiet Storm” actually became a radio format, typifying the slow jam R&B nuanced sets of some stations across the country. It was performed beautifully and augmented by a breathtaking flute solo by Kenny Geoffrey who tripled on alto and tenor saxes.

Up next was another slow grinder, the classic “Ohh Baby Baby.” I need to point out that all the material performed by Smokey and his bandmates were fresh new arrangements that recalled the original studio recordings yet added significant, unique interpretations to the material. We ate it up. Even though we had morphed into the Miracles, we gave the folks onstage a standing ovation.

“Well, I guess that’s it,” Smokey cracked. “We should’a played that one first and went home!”

Smokey kept us entertained in between song patter. “Sound check wasn’t the same without you.”

He reminisced about the early days with Motown. Fifty one nighters in a row. Driving to all the gigs. When they did the Motortown Review featuring acts including Mary Wells, The Marvelettes, Little Stevie Wonder, Martha & The Vandellas, The Temptations, Jr. Walker & The All Stars, The Contours and the Miracles, they would do five shows a day. Whew!

He talked about the genesis of the song “The Way You Do The Things You Do.”

On the road with the Miracles, Smokey was driving. The lyrics came to him as a defense against boredom. It became The Temptations' first international hit. Robinson then performed Temptations hits that he wrote including “Get Ready” and “My Girl.”

The Smokey Robinson Band is a talented cast of players. In addition to the aforementioned Robert “Boogie” Bowles on guitar, the band included Larry Ball on bass, Syvan on keyboards, musical director Demetrius on keyboards and Tony Lewis on drums. The backing vocalists were Syreena, Aman and Kerry. The sexy dancers who must’ve gone through half a dozen costume changes were Tracy and Linda. Don’t forget the near-capacity Konocti crowd who filled in for the Miracles.

One more amusing anecdote that Smokey told was how at a Motown party, Stevie Wonder, upon arriving, walks up to Robinson and says something to the effect of, “Smoke, as the flowers kiss the dawn of the cosmos and the infinite Author of Creation finally bestows peace upon all living things, there is a great possibility that all people will be free.” According to Robinson, that’s how Stevie says hello.

Robinson then relates how Wonder gave him the music which evolved into the hit song “Tears Of A Clown” for which Smokey wrote the lyrics.

Somehow, almost unnoticed, the band broke down and became a trio while Smokey bantered with the audience. Smokey disappeared when the trio started to riff and Smokey reappeared in a black tux and swings very credible versions of “Fly Me To The Moon,” “I Love Your Face” and “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love.” The ladies in the first row appeared to be getting heated. The backing vocalists took center stage while the band reformed. Kenny tagged it out with a way out tenor solo.

The dancers reappeared and did an interlude until Mr. Robinson rejoined us. Smokey was now dressed in gold leather slacks and a white mesh shirt. We were well into the second hour of the show. Smokey sang hypnotic versions of “The Tracks Of My Tears,” “Just To See Her” and “The Love I Saw In You Was Just A Mirage.” He built and released tension with long dramatic pauses.

Smokey’s new album, “Time Flies When You’re Having Fun,” will be released Aug. 25. He sang “Don’t Know Why” his magnificent cover of the song made famous by Norah Jones, which will be on his new release.

For the finale, Robinson & company did an extended version of “Cruisin’” – complete with an audience participation feel good contest. Pitting one side of the amphitheater against the other, Smokey encouraged the singers in all of us to come all the way out. Finally, it was determined that Group I and Group II were equal versions of The Miracles.

It was very emotional and many folks were near tears at the end. Let’s see now. That was the fourth time I’ve seen Smokey in this life. He gets better each time. Oh, I forgot to mention he did a meet and greet with scores of people after the concert. What stamina! What a charmed life!

This just in: “I’m in it strictly for the Music … BLUES Music that is. I’ll be playing somethin’ old … somethin’ new … but whatever I play, it’ll be straight up from The Roots & Soul of our great original American Musical heritage … THE BLUES. We gonna have a natural ball, y’all. Have mercy!” – Barry Big B Brenner

And from Mighty Mike Schermer: I guess the biggest news I have right now is a new live CD which we will be featuring at the Blue Wing … and in mid-September I am relocating to Austin, Texas, and joining Marcia Ball's Band after 25 years on the West Coast.

Keep prayin’, keep thinkin’ those kind thoughts.


Upcoming cool events:

The Fargo Brothers, Blues Monday, 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Aug. 3. Blue Wing Saloon & Café, 9520 Main St. Upper Lake. Information: 707-275-2233, www.bluewingsaloon.com .

Barry Brenner, Mighty Mike Schermer and Lara Price, Wednesday, Aug. 5. Blue Wing Blues Festival, Blue Wing Saloon & Café, 9520 Main St., Upper Lake. Doors open at 5 p.m. Information: 707-275-2233, www.bluewingsaloon.com .

Barry Brenner and The Chris Cain Band, Thursday, Aug. 6. Blue Wing Blues Festival, Blue Wing Saloon & Café, 9520 Main St., Upper Lake. Doors open at 5 p.m. Information: 707-275-2233, www.bluewingsaloon.com .

Barry Brenner, Bettie Mae Fikes and The Levi Lloyd Band, Friday, Aug. 7. Blue Wing Blues Festival, Blue Wing Saloon & Café, 9520 Main St., Upper Lake. Doors open at 5 p.m. Information: 707-275-2233, www.bluewingsaloon.com .

Tom Rigney & Flambeau, 6:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 7, Library Park, 200 Park St., Lakeport.

Bottle Rock Blues & Rhythm Band, Paul Steward & Twice As Good with Curtis Lawson, Saturday, Aug. 8. Blue Wing Blues Festival, Blue Wing Saloon & Café, 9520 Main St., Upper Lake. Doors open at 5 p.m. Information: 707-275-2233, www.bluewingsaloon.com .

Eareverence performs from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. during Sunday Brunch, Aug. 8, Blue Wing Saloon & Café, 9520 Main St., Upper Lake. Brunch lasts from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Information: 707-275-2233, www.bluewingsaloon.com .

T. Watts is a writer, radio host and music critic. Visit his Web site at www.teewatts.biz.



Robinson's crew included his backup dancers, Tracy and Linda. Photo by Gail Salituri.



Zino's Ristorante: 6330 Soda Bay Road, Kelseyville; telephone 707-279-1620. Open for dinner every day of the week, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Visit the restaurant online at www.zinoclearlake.com .

I was standing in The Kitchen Gallery during an event some time ago when a beautiful young woman came up to me and asked (the exact question has been changed to protect the innocent), “Are you Ross Christensen, the food writer?”

Since up to this point I had been standing anonymously in front of Zino Mezoui, the owner of Zino’s Ristorante, I stood there not knowing what to say. After all, I didn’t want to be recognized by a restaurant owner that I would be reviewing one day, but after a couple of awkward moments I turned away from Zino and his staff and said to her, “Yes, I am.” OK, so pretty women are my kryptonite, and I couldn’t be rude to her.

I have avoided doing a review on Zino’s out of fear that they would recognize me from that incident. But it had been quite a while, and I was recently camping nearby Zino’s with my daughter and we decided to have dinner with them. After all I’m not that memorable in the looks department and I was sure they wouldn’t recognize me.

In the world of Italian restaurants you can predict the food by what the restaurant calls itself. A ristorante is the most formal type of establishment with printed menus and haute cuisine, while a trattoria is casual, family style eatery. An osteria is similar to a tavern or working class type regional food, a pizzeria and spaghetteria … you get the hint. Zino’s is a ristorante.

We arrived at Zino’s just as they were opening and were able to immediately get a table. Our waiter Jim introduced himself and we knew that this evening was going to be special.

Jim is a very formal and practiced waiter, appearing almost like he was military trained if there was a martial maitre d’ program. He would approach our table and appear to almost stand stiffly at attention before asking “May I take these away” followed by a crisp gesture to the empty plates. His formality, poise and professionalism made me feel guilty for wearing a t-shirt and shorts to dinner, but after all, I was on a camping trip.

He did make one notable mistake with our dinner that we didn’t even notice until we got home and started comparing notes for writing this review, but it didn’t detract anything from the meal, and since it took us so long to figure it out we’ll just keep it too ourselves this time.

The décor of the restaurant is nice with rustic walls and a little fitting artwork, but the dominating feature of the room are the windows looking over the lake. There isn’t a table in the house that can’t see the water. The lake is the major decoration of the dining room.

One of the highlights of the evening for me was when my daughter went to take a drink from her glass and she accidentally hiccuped into it giving off a loud echoing “Heeerraap!” as if a pterodactyl had just swooped into the room. Her face turned bright red as she glanced around the room to see if anyone else noticed. I thought it was adorable. Just a little daddy moment to share.

We ordered the crab cake appetizers that were the special for the evening, and for entrees I had the petrale sole special with lemon butter while my daughter ordered the pepper steak. They both came with mashed potatoes, sautéed vegetables, and we ordered the Caesar salad instead of the soup.

The crab cakes were very good with a couple different colors of sweet peppers adding some great color to the interior. They were sitting in one sauce and topped with another which seemed a bit over the top, but they worked well together and didn’t overpower the cakes.

Now, there will never be a man so educated or refined that will live up to my daughter’s expectations. I know this because when the salad showed up my daughter looked up at me all bright-eyed and said, “Wow, a classic Caesar salad!” Now to prove my point we’ll pause for a moment for parents of teenage boys to ask their young men what that means ...

Yeah, she’s a spoiled girl.

I’ve written column on the history of Caesar salad that you’ll read soon, but for this story I’ll let you know that Caesar salad should contain whole romaine lettuce leaves from the center of the head which are meant to be eaten with the fingers and not a fork. The Caesar salad at Zino’s was exactly that, hearts of romaine leaves stacked neatly like Lincoln logs, then dressed and covered in Parmesan cheese. My daughter recognized it instantly. Although it's not really “classic” Caesar salad at Zino’s it was close enough to thrill my daughter.

The petrale sole was fantastic, simply prepared, perfectly seasoned and a very good sized portion. The mashed potatoes were unique, being made with a combination of sweet potatoes, starchy potatoes and waxy potatoes in perfect harmony with some of the potato peels also included.

The sautéed vegetables surprised me because the combination of broccoli, summer squash and carrots all cook at different rates yet were all perfectly cooked, and I ate every single bit of them, happy knowing that Zino’s kitchen staff was really on the ball.

My daughter ordered her steak rare and it was perfectly done to that standard. It was a large portion which she wasn’t able to finish, which caused the chef to send Jim to our table to ask if everything was OK. We said it was but since the steak was probably a full 1 percent of her body weight it just wasn’t going to get finished.

Part of the way through our dinner I noticed that every table in the room was either full or had a reserved placard on it, so I would definitely recommend calling ahead for a table before you make the drive. Prices are fair for the experience that you receive. If you are curious about what they have to eat and the prices, their usual menu is posted on their Web site.

Zino’s has several reviews online already and they all are in the four- to five-star range and I would have to agree. Zino’s Ristorante is a definite “must visit,” whether you are a local resident or visiting the county.

Ross A. Christensen is an award-winning gardener and gourmet cook. He is the author of "Sushi A to Z, The Ultimate Guide" and is currently working on a new book. He has been a public speaker for many years and enjoys being involved in the community.

LAKE COUNTY – Law enforcement officials are investigating three rapes that are alleged to have taken place late last week.

Two of the rapes were reported on Saturday, said Capt. James Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office.

Bauman said the two rapes – one in Middletown, one in Kelseyville – were reported within an hour of each other by women from Hidden Valley Lake, and both incidents were alleged to have occurred on Friday.

In the first case, a 25-year-old woman went to Twin Pine Casino where she met with her family and friends and had some drinks.

The woman woke up the next day at home to find she was missing her underwear. Bauman said it's believed that a male subject who is an acquaintance of the woman, and who was seen at the casino that night, had sex with her while she was under the influence of alcohol.

In the second case, Bauman said deputies responded to Sutter Lakeside Hospital on Saturday night.

There they found an 18-year-old woman who reported she had been raped the previous night in Kelseyville. Bauman had few other details, as the report still is being written in that case.

A third rape was reported to have taken place Saturday night in Lakeport, according to Lt. Brad Rasmussen of Lakeport Police.

Rasmussen said an 18-year-old Lakeport woman attended a concert at the Lake County Fairgrounds on Martin Street Saturday night.

At the event she met a security guard who let her in for free, Rasmussen said.

The two exchange phone numbers, and Rasmussen said later that night the guard sent her a text message and got her outside of the concert.

There the male subject asked the woman for sex. When the woman refused, the male physically assaulted her, Rasmussen said. The rape was reported early Sunday morning.

Rasmussen said police have received forensic evidence in the case and are still investigating.

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

A star chart of the annual Perseids meteor shower. Courtesy of NASA.



LAKE COUNTY – The arrival of August means it's once again time for the Perseid meteor shower.

Earth is entering a stream of dusty debris from Comet Swift-Tuttle, the source of the annual Perseid meteor shower, and although the shower won't peak until Aug. 11 and 12, the show is already getting under way, according to NASA.

Bill Cooke of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office says that although meteors are visible in the nighttime skies now.

“We're just in the outskirts of the debris stream now. If you go out at night and stare at the sky, you'll probably only see a few Perseids per hour,” he said, but this will change, however, as August unfolds, according to NASA.

The moon is currently waxing and will be full on Wednesday, Aug. 5, rising at 8:11 p.m. in Lake County, the Old Farmers' Almanac reports.

The full moon in August is called the Sturgeon Moon according to the Old Farmers' Almanac, because some Native American tribes knew that the sturgeon of the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain were most readily caught during this full Moon; others called it the Green Corn Moon or the Grain Moon.

"Earth passes through the densest part of the debris stream sometime on August 12th," Cooke states in a recent NASA release, and dozens of meteors per hour can be viewed.

For sky watchers in Lake County, NASA recommends to begin watching after nightfall on Aug. 11 through sunrise on Aug. 12 for maximum viewing.

Veteran observers suggest unfolding a blanket on a flat patch of ground (NASA notes the middle of your street is not a good choice), and lie down and look up.

Perseids can appear in any part of the sky, their tails all pointing back to the shower's radiant in the constellation Perseus, NASA said.

There is one light you cannot escape on Aug. 12, according to NASA – that's the 55-percent gibbous moon which will brightly shine from the constellation Aries beside the meteor shower's radiant in Perseus. So avoid looking at the moon, as bright moonlight will ruin night vision and prevent you from viewing faint Perseids in that part of the sky.

With the dark nighttime skies in Lake County, there are many locations ideal for viewing this annual nighttime show – but even your backyard or out on a dock is better than most city-dwellers will find in a 50-mile radius of their home.

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

Closely held and family run businesses are vital to our economy, our society and integral to the American dream itself.

Planning for transitions in ownership and control is necessary to ensure retirement income to the owner; liquidity to the owner’s estate upon death; preservation of the business as a “going concerns”; and estate tax minimization, as relevant.

If you are a business owner, such planning entails asking yourself the following: (1) How will your business continue without you – will you keep the business in your family or sell it, and if so, to whom; (2) if some children will participate in the business and others not how will your estate plan accommodate that; (3) Are there key employees you need to retain; (4) Does your business need reorganization; (5) Do you have a “buy sell” agreement in place (presuming multiple owners); and (6) How will the “buy sell” agreement be funded. Now, let’s examine each area.

At the outset, examine your business and family goals, and identify limitations placed on such goals by business agreements with co-owners; determine who will be your successor(s). If you plan to sell to outsiders, ask yourself what do you need to get the business ready for sale, and how will you find potential buyers? Presuming family participation, who has the interest and necessary aptitude? Do you need the consent of the other partners? Will their plans and your plans coincide nicely? Will a sale to them provide you with an adequate retirement? Will you continue as a consultant or employee to assist them and to earn retirement income?

Next, how will your estate plan provide for your other children not in the business? Does being fair to them mean treating them equally or unequally? Are there other assets (like insurance) to give them? Do you wish to give them an economic ownership interest only? If so, should the active family be allowed to buy-out the inactive family?

What about your key employees, will they be retained after you leave? Will your family accept them, and vice versa? Should they have an ownership stake? If so, will they be allowed to buy-in, or will they receive their interests as conditional employee bonuses (sweat equity) subject to forfeiture? Furthermore, will they participate in management?

Does your business need reorganization in order to transfer or retain control and/or ownership interests as desired? Sole proprietorships are often converted into LLC’s, corporations or partnerships. For example, with an LLC you can retain control as the general partner but allow your children ownership as limited partners.

Alternatively, you may want to give control but retain an economic interest for your retirement. For example, with a corporation you can retain preferred stock and transfer common stock, and so require that dividends be paid to you first.

A “buy sell” agreement is needed when you have co-owners in order to allow your interest to be purchased upon certain triggering events: disability, retirement, and death. The agreement sets the a price, often by formula or appraisal. Also, it may allow the business itself, or your remaining co-owners, a right of first refusal to purchase your interest.

Above all, how will you fund the plan? Usually the business or its owners purchase life insurance, and sometimes disability insurance, on each owner. Alternatively, an installment sale to the business, its remaining owners, or outsiders may be used. Installment sales, however, may present a cash flow problem to your estate when it needs money in order to support your family, to pay immediate administration costs, and to pay taxes.

Lastly, succession planning is a multi-disciplinary endeavor involving business planning, estate planning, financial planning, income tax and estate tax planning, and perhaps business counseling. Typically, a team consisting of an attorney, accountant, and a financial planner is needed to advise and assist you.

Dennis A. Fordham is an attorney licensed to practice law in California and New York. He earned his bachelor's degree at Columbia University, his juris doctor at the State University of New York at Buffalo, and his LL.M in taxation at New York University. He concentrates his practice in the areas of estate planning and aspects of elder law. His office is at 55 First St., Lakeport. He can be reached by e-mail at dennis@dennisfordhamlaw , com or by phone at 707-263-3235.

HIDDEN VALLEY LAKE – The California Highway Patrol on Monday released details about the fatal Saturday crash that claimed the life of a Hidden Valley Lake couple.

Eugene Klebe, 80, and his wife, Pauline, 73, of Hidden Valley Lake died at the scene of the collision, which occurred on Highway 29 at Spruce Grove Road Extension, across from the Hidden Valley Lake main gate, according to CHP Officer Steve Tanguay.

At 10:20 a.m. Saturday the Klebes were sitting in their 2008 Lincoln MKZ sedan at the stop sign on Spruce Grove Road Extension across from the main gate, said Tanguay.

Tanguay said Eugene Klebe then pulled out into the path of a 2001 Dodge Durango driven by Jon Johnson, 52, of Hidden Valley Lake, who was heading southbound on Highway 29.

Johnson was unable to avoid the collision, Tanguay said, and his Durango collided with the Lincoln's left side.

Tanguay said the Klebes' Lincoln came to rest blocking the northbound lane of traffic and the Dodge came to rest blocking the southbound lane of traffic.

The Klebes both sustained fatal injuries, said Tanguay.

Johnson was transported to St. Helena Hospital-Clearlake where he was treated and released for minor injuries. His son, Jason Johnson, reported over the weekend that his father was doing all right.

Tanguay said traffic was diverted around the crash and onto Spruce Grove Road Extension. Reports from the scene indicated that the roadway wasn't fully reopened for two hours.

This collision is still under investigation by Officer Steve Curtis, Tanguay said.

He added that alcohol and drugs are not considered to be factors in this collision.

The Klebes' death was greeted with sadness by community members and neighbors, who left messages on Lake County News over the weekend as well as sending in e-mails.

Michelle Forney, who had been the Klebes' neighbor on Spyglass in Hidden Valley Lake at one time, called the news “devastating.”

She said the couple had gotten together in recent years after his previous wife died in 2003.

Eugene Klebe was a smiling, joking, charismatic man, who walked around the neighborhood and talked to people, and liked to frequent all the yard sales on Saturdays with his wife – not to buy anything but just to visit, Forney said. He'd also enjoyed taking trips in his RV.

Forney said she had just seen Eugene Klebe the Saturday before the fatal crash.

“They were both adorable. It's so sad,” she said.

Forney added that she also knows the Johnsons, who she also described as wonderful people.

“My heart just was broken,” she said.

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

MIDDLETOWN – New details from eyewitnesses are filling in the picture of what led to a double fatality in a Saturday morning crash near Hidden Valley Lake.

The crash, which involved two vehicles, occurred shortly before 10:30 a.m. on Highway 29 at Spruce Grove Road Extension, as Lake County News has reported. The roadway wasn't fully reopened until nearly two hours later.

Jon Johnson, 52, was driving toward Middletown on Highway 29 shortly before 10:30 a.m. Saturday in a 2001 Dodge Durango, according to his son, Jason Johnson.

Witnesses said Jon Johnson was driving at the 55 mile per hour speed limit when, a short ways from Spruce Grove Road Extension, a Lincoln sedan pulled out into his path. Johnson swerved but wasn't able to miss the sedan, which it hit squarely on the driver's side.

An off-duty firefighter reported the first fatality, according to reports at the scene, within minutes of the collision.

That victim, the sedan's driver, was identified as Eugene Klebe, 80, of Hidden Valley Lake to Johnson's family, according to Jason Johnson. Other community members also have identified Klebe as one of the fatalities.

Klebe died at the scene, according to witnesses. Rescue personnel spent a long time at the scene attempting to resuscitate an elderly female passenger in Klebe's car, who died a short time later.

Jason Johnson said his father had to climb out the back of his Durango because the doors were locked. Jon Johnson went to the hospital as a precaution where he was x-rayed, and is otherwise OK, his son said.

Specifics about the crash investigation haven't been released to the public by the CHP.

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

HIDDEN VALLEY LAKE – Two people have died in a collision in front of Hidden Valley Lake.

The California Highway Patrol has confirmed two fatalities in the crash, which occurred on Highway 29 at Spruce Grove Road Extension shortly before 10:30 a.m

CHP reported one fatality when officials first arrived at the scene, with another person with major injuries.

Fire officials were attempting to extricate another victim as sheriff's officials responded.

The second death was confirmed at approximately 10:53 a.m.

The crash also blocked the roadway. Just after 11 a.m. officials opened the road with one-way traffic control, which was in effect for just over 40 minutes before the highway was once again opened. Tow services were summoned to remove vehicles from the scene.

CHP has so far not offered any other details on the specifics of the incident, including how many cars were involved and the identities of the victims.

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

Upcoming Calendar

07.23.2024 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Clearlake Planning Commission
07.24.2024 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm
ReCoverCA Homebuyer Assistance Workshop
07.27.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
07.30.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
08.03.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
08.06.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
08.10.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
08.13.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
08.17.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
08.20.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park

Mini Calendar



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