Saturday, 20 July 2024


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. .

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 .

LAKEPORT – Day four of Bismarck Dinius' trial saw five witnesses take the stand as the prosecution continues to present its case.

Hopkins alleges that Dinius, 41, was steering Willows resident Mark Weber's sailboat on April 29, 2006, when it was hit by a powerboat driven by Russell Perdock, an off-duty sheriff's deputy. Weber's girlfriend, Lynn Thornton, 51, was mortally injured and died days later from her injuries.

Perdock was not charged in the case, but Dinius is facing felony boating under the influence with great bodily injury, because District Attorney Jon Hopkins alleges he had a blood alcohol level of 0.12 and did not have navigation lights on according to state and federal boating laws.

At the end of the first week of testimony, Hopkins' witnesses were law enforcement investigators who described handling key pieces of evidence as well as the larger investigation.

Craig Woodworth, the District Attorney's Office's acting chief investigator, testified that last month, on June 3, he went to the sheriff's Boat Patrol facility at Braito's Marino on Buckingham Point to remove the speedometer and tachometer from the instrument cluster of Perdock's 24-foot Baja Outlaw powerboat.

Woodworth said he photographed and bagged the instruments, which he gave to another district attorney's investigator, John Flynn, who in turn transported the items to the California Department of Justice's Santa Rosa lab.

The instruments were sent to the DOJ, where a “needle slap” test was conducted. Criminalist John Yount explained that a needle slap is when an instrument with a needle experiences an extremely abrupt acceleration or deceleration, like a car crashing into a wall.

In some cases, the needle would strike the back of the speedometer face and leave a mark, which can give an indication of the vehicle's speed at the time of impact.

Yount received the instruments on June 3, and tested them between June 4 and June 8, using clear, low angle lighting.

His conclusion – there was no indication of needle slap on either instrument, and therefore testing the instruments didn't yield evidence of the vehicle's exact speed at impact. That matched the conclusion by Dr. William Chilcott, defense attorney Victor Haltom's expert, who examined the instruments about a year ago, Haltom said in court on Friday.

“Can you explain why there might not be any needle slap on the inside of these instruments?” Hopkins asked during direct questioning.

Yount said there are a variety of possible explanations, from the vehicle not coming to a very abrupt or immediate halt after impact. The needles may well have struck the instrument faces, Yount said, but not with enough force to leave noticeable marks.

He said he didn't go further and do experiments to try to determine how fast the boat would have had to travel to have needle slap occur, because he wasn't asked to do that.

“You just did exactly what they asked you to do?” Haltom asked.

“That's correct,” said Yount.

Even if they did find needle slap, Yount said, “It would be difficult to say how fast the vehicle was actually traveling.”

Sheriff's Det. Jerry Pfann returned to the stand Friday morning to briefly help clear up some conflicting testimony.

Both Pfann and retired sheriff's Sgt. Mark Hoffman had testified on Wednesday that they had transferred blood samples belonging to Weber and Dinius to the sheriff's evidence facility in Lakeport. Pfann, who testified before Hoffman, was in the courtroom as the custodian of the blood samples when he heard the testimony.

Pfann said he had taken those two samples, along with Perdock's, to the main evidence facility. On Friday he presented a report originated in the sheriff's office's RIMS software program with a date stamp to back up his statements.

Boat Patrol sergeant details scene, beginning investigation

Boat Patrol Supervisor Sgt. Dennis Ostini, who in two weeks will mark his 31st year with the Lake County Sheriff's Office, gave the bulk of the day's testimony on Friday.

In his three and a half hours on the stand he described events including the initial call summoning him to the crash scene, as well as his decision to bring on an investigator from an outside agency to help handle the case. By the time of the crash, he had only been in the Boat Patrol about four months, and said on the stand Friday he hadn't done much boating before being assigned to the unit.

On the night of the crash, Ostini took a 20-foot aluminum sheriff's boat from its slip in Holiday Harbor in Nice and started off across the lake to Konocti Bay shortly after 9:30 p.m. He recalled there was little wind and it was a very dark, moonless night.

About two-thirds of the way there, he received a call saying the boats were being towed to 9130 Soda Bay Road, at Bayshore and Boren Began resorts, so he reduced his speed and went to the boat barn where he met Deputy Lloyd Wells and proceeded to the scene in a sheriff's pickup truck.

When he got to the “chaotic” scene just after 10 p.m., nearly an hour after the crash took place, Sgts. Mark Hoffman and Mike Morshed were there, trying to organize the scene. Witness interviews already were under way, and Kelseyville Fire paramedics were caring for the injured, including young Jordin Walker, who has been a passenger on the powerboat, and Thornton. The damaged boats were docked by that time.

Ostini said he directed Wells to tow Weber's sailboat, the Beats Workin' II, back to the Boat Patrol barn at Braito's. He had Hoffman transport Weber to the hospital, where he received medical care and a blood draw was conducted that later allegedly showed a blood alcohol level of 0.18.

Perdock came up to Ostini and they discussed the crash. Perdock told him he was involved, and Ostini said Perdock didn't appear to be intoxicated. He said Perdock also indicated he wanted a blood draw, which Ostini said is part of the agency's normal process when fatal crashes occur.

“You would have ordered it whether he volunteered or not?” Hopkins asked.

“Yes, and whether I thought he was intoxicated or not,” he said.

The task of taking Perdock to Redbud Community Hospital – now St. Helena Hospital-Clearlake – was given to then-Sgt. James Beland, Ostini said.

Beland raised the issue of giving Perdock a preliminary alcohol screening (PAS) test – or a breathalyzer – at the scene, but Ostini said he told him no, “that I wanted to get a blood test and he's volunteered to get a blood test, so we're going to get a blood test.”

Hopkins asked if Dinius and Weber received PAS tests at the scene. No, said Ostini.

Ostini said he spent “a considerable amount of time” at the scene that night. Perdock's boat was towed by a friend, with Ostini following behind, to the boat barn, where it was locked into the building after Ostini moved around some of the stored boats inside. The sailboat was towed and stored in a slip outside until the following day.

Later, at about 1:30 a.m. April 30, 2006, in the Sutter Lakeside Hospital emergency room, Ostini found Dinius being treated for a broken wrist. Dinius also is reported to also have suffered a head injury and broken ribs. Ostini said he didn't see Dinius with signs of intoxication.

Ostini said he introduced himself and asked Dinius if he was the boat's operator. “Initially he said he didn't think so because he doesn't like to dock other peoples' boats and they were on the way in when the collision occurred,” Ostini said.

Ostini said Dinius then corrected himself and said he was at the tiller. Dinius also reportedly said he had consumed two glasses of wine two hours before the collision and had a beer on the boat.

“I asked him if he knew if the navigation lights on the sailboat were illuminated,” said Ostini. He said Dinius replied, “I don't recall that specifically,” although he did remember the cabin lights being on.

Ostini asked if Dinius remembered seeing or hear the powerboat. “Is that what hit us?” he recalled Dinius saying.

Later that morning, after Ostini returned to his office after getting a little rest for the night, he said one of the first things he did was call Sheriff Rod Mitchell about bringing in a private investigator or consultant to assist with the case because of Perdock's involvement. He said Mitchell gave the go ahead.

Ostini then called Wes Dodd, the lead instructor for the California Department of Boating and Water Ways classes, one of which Ostini had completed about two weeks before the crah. He asked Dodd if he would be interested in conducting the investigation. Dodd urged Ostini to find another law enforcement agency before bringing in a private investigator.

Since then, Dodd has joined Dinius' case as one of the defense experts. His testimony is expected later in the trial.

Ostini said he knew of then-Sgt. Charles Slabaugh from the Sacramento County Sheriff's Office. They'd been introduced previously when Slabaugh came to Lake County on a mutual aid agreement to help patrol the lake during the BoardStock event at Konocti Harbor Resort & Spa.

Slabaugh, after receiving Ostini's request, arrived late in the evening of the day next, May 1, 2006, along with a deputy. Ostini briefed them and they began looking over the boats.

Hopkins had Ostini look over a list of evidence items taken from the sailboat. They included a 1.75-liter bottle of vodka with five ounces of liquor left inside, a bottle of Wildhurst reserve wine that was about one-third full, a half-full 1.75-liter bottle of tequila and a GPS device attached at the stern. During testimony later in the day he said there had been seven empty beer cans in various parts of the boat.

Ostini pressed on speed issues

During his time on the stand, Haltom questioned Ostini repeatedly on issues of safe speed.

Haltom asked Ostini if he remembered testifying in a deposition on the case about how fast he was traveling in his sheriff's boat to the scene.

He said he didn't recall a specific number, although he thought he said 30 miles per hour. Ostini said he believes now he went much faster. In his deposition he had used the phrase “breakneck speed.” In last year's preliminary hearing Ostini had said it was between 30 and 35 miles per hour, according to Haltom's reading of the transcript.

Ostini testified that he wasn't very comfortable traveling at the high speed across the lake. “It was just a kind of an eerie feeling.”

Once he heard the boats were being towed in and no people were in the water, Ostini – according to the preliminary hearing transcript to which Halton referred – slowed to between 15 and 20 miles per hour.

When Haltom attempted to ask Ostini's opinion on a safe speed to travel across the lake, Hopkins objected. Judge J. Michael Byrne sustained the objection and offered to let Haltom reword the question.

Haltom asked Ostini if he had been trained in federal navigation rules, particularly rule six, the safe speed rule. Ostini said he had been and explained that, in general terms, it says a person should not travel any faster than they can safely stop in half the distance to an obstruction.

The general thrust, Haltom suggested, is to travel at a safe speed based on conditions? “Yes, that would be a good characterization,” said Ostini.

Haltom asked what is the fastest speed Ostini would have felt safe traveling on the lake. Hopkins objected, Byrne sustained. Haltom tried again, asking what was the fastest speed at which Ostini would have felt comfortable.

Hopkins again objected and this time Byrne overruled. When Hopkins continued to argue against the question, saying there were too many conditions, Byrne held up his hand, saying he didn't want to argue in front of the jury, and that they could discuss that question later.

Ostini said the issue of the sailboat's lights didn't arise for him until a fisherman, Colin Johnson, told him about seeing the unlit sailboat during an interview on the lakeshore. Perdock also told Ostini that night that he didn't see the boat's lights. In addition, Johnson told Ostini he had shined a spotlight on the sailboat, and that he hadn't seen any lights on it.

Haltom asked why Ostini brought in Slabaugh. “Although I felt fairly comfortable conducting the investigation, I knew that anytime a law enforcement officer was involved in something of this nature, there was a possibility of questions of impropriety,” Ostini replied.

During his cross-examination, Haltom also asked about shore lights and how they can make navigating at night difficult. “Sometimes shore lights can be a distraction,” said Ostini, especially in the area of resorts like Konocti Harbor and Richmond Park.

Haltom asked if a boater headed toward Richmond Park at night – as Perdock was – could see background lights that might interfere with the ability to see another vessel ahead. “Not necessarily,” Ostini said.

But possibly? Haltom asked. Ostini said it's possible.

Haltom also questioned Ostini about a nighttime trip he and Slabaugh took on the lake at night to visit the area of the crash. He asked Ostini if he remembered mistaking a boat light for a shore light. Ostini said he had seen a light far away which they eventually realized was a boat.

During an afternoon break, the judge allowed the prosecution and defense to argue the objection over the safe speed questions.

Hopkins, who objected to the line of questioning, said, “Safe speed, first of all, is a legal conclusion.”

Byrne said they have officers giving opinions in traffic cases all the time.

Hopkins replied that the US Supreme Court has pointed out that the safe speed question “depends on the particular circumstances involved.” He said Haltom was asking his questions about safe speed in a vacuum.

Byrne suggested that the form of the question should relate to the time and place, adding that Ostini had the expertise to offer an opinion.

Haltom said he thought it was implied that he was asking Ostini about the very conditions he had experienced on the lake that night. He quoted Ostini's deposition for the civil lawsuit related to the crash, in which he said the safe speed that night was between five and 10 miles per hour.

He went on to quote Ostini in the deposition saying he mistook a boat light for a shore light. Ostini, who was present for the exchange, said to Hopkins that he didn't say that, and Hopkins replied that wasn't what was stated.

As the prosecutor and defense attorney continued to argue about how to quote transcripts and other points, Byrne admonished them not to get petty. “We had a good week.”

With Ostini back on the stand, Haltom asked him about the interview he had with Perdock following the crash, and how fast Perdock said he was going.

“He said he thought he was going about 40,” Ostini said.

“Did he tell you how he knew hew as going 40?” Haltom asked.

“He said that it takes his boat that speed or about that speed to get it up to plane or on plane,” said Ostini.

It was explained Friday that “on plane” is when a powerboat levels out after it picks up speed.

When Haltom asked him what would have been the top safe speed to travel on Clear Lake that night, Ostini said he didn't think he could accurately answer the question because he was responding to an emergency call.

During continued questioning about safe speed, Ostini said, “As a general rule, regardless of moonlight conditions, I rarely exceed a speed of 20 to 25 miles per hour at night, unless it's a real moonlit night.”

Haltom read a piece of Ostini's testimony from the preliminary hearing, in which he said five to 10 miles per hour would have been the top safe speed on the lake that night.

Ostini said he has yet, to this day, to experience a night that duplicated that night in April 2006 in terms of darkness.

Haltom once again questioned him about seeing a boat and thinking it was a shore light. Ostini said he saw the boat and didn't think there were shore lights in that area of Konocti Bay, and then they got closer and saw it moving.

He also questioned Ostini more on navigation laws, including safe speed and maintaining a proper lookout. As he sought to have Ostini answer his questions in relation to Perdock's boat that night, Hopkins lodged repeated, successful objections.

Hopkins then asked how far away a boat's navigation lights can be spotted at night. “The law says if a boat has a properly operating stern light, it's required to be seen for two miles,” said Ostini.

Could such a light have been seen on a night like April 29, 2006? Hopkins asked. Ostini said he believed so.

In cases involving powerboats and sailboats, Haltom wanted to know which is required to stay out of the way of the other. “The sailboat is less maneuverable so the powerboat should stay away from it,” Ostini said. “If the powerboat operator can see that boat.”

Haltom asked if federal navigation rules say anything about boats being lit or unlit as part of the requirement for powerboats to stay away. Ostini said he would have to read it, so Haltom handed him a copy.

During another break, Haltom objected to a comment that the judge had made about needing to see the boat in relation to the boating rules.

Byrne said a fundamental issue in the case is causation. “If speed trumps visibility, that's a question for the jury.”

When the jury returned, Byrne clarified for the jury that it's the prosecution's burden to establish that Dinius was operating a vessel while intoxicated, that he failed to exhibit side and stern lights between sunrise and sunset, and that neglect of those ordinary duties resulted in bodily injury to Thornton.

Sacramento sheriff's lieutenant begins testimony

Lt. Charles Slabaugh spent about 45 minutes on the stand before the day concluded. A 28-year veteran of the Sacramento County Sheriff's Office, he has experience investigating boating accidents.

He explained how he and a deputy arrived from Sacramento and began a walkaround of the boats in the sheriff's boat barn before they began photographing them.

Under Hopkins' questioning, he explained the boats' conditions. The sailboat's stern light housing appeared to have come in contact with the underside of the speedboat as it passed over, leaving a long black mark along the entire side of the speedboat.

He described a picture of the boat's light switches that showed the cabin lights were on, but the running lights, bow light and stern light were off. Slabaugh also described finding protruding wires from the stern light, which sat on a rail that was bent by the impact.

Court recessed for the week shortly before 4:15 p.m. “We are getting a lot done,” Byrne told the jury.

Testimony continues at 9 a.m. Tuesday.

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.

* = 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. .

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, .

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, .

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, .

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, .

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, .

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, .

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



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 .

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.

MENDOCINO NATIONAL FOREST – A Santa Rosa teenager riding in a Jeep in the Mendocino National Forest on Thursday died after the vehicle overturned.

The 17-year-old female, whose name was not released, was riding in the rear of a 2000 Jeep Wrangler driven by 20-year-old Sunnyvale resident Nathan Winter, according to California Highway Patrol Officer Steve Tanguay.

Tanguay said another teen, a 16-year-old female from Forestville, was in the Jeep's right front seat.

Winter was driving westbound on Mendocino National Forest Road No. M-10 at an unknown speed when the crash occurred at noon on Thursday, Tanguay said.

For unknown reasons, Winter turned his gaze away from the road ahead, then felt the Jeep start to travel up an embankment. Tanguay said Winter aggressively applied the vehicle's brakes and turned the steering wheel in an attempt to correct the Jeep's path.  

Winter lost control of the Jeep as it traveled up a steep embankment and overturned, causing fatal injuries to the unrestrained rear passenger, Tanguay said.

REACH responded and transported the other female juvenile passenger – who also was unrestrained – to Sutter Lakeside Hospital, according to Tanguay.

Winter suffered minor injuries and was not transported. Tanguay said alcohol and drugs are not considered to be factors in the collision.

This collision is still under investigation by CHP Officer Nick Powell.

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