Saturday, 20 July 2024


The late, great Percy Mayfield. Courtesy photo.



I lay awake nights and ponder world troubles

And my answer is always the same

That unless men put an end to this damnable sin

Hate will put the world in a flame, what a shame…

Poet Laureate of the Blues, Percy Mayfield from his song “Please Send Me Someone To Love,” Circa 1950

In about 1979, I had backslid into the town of Hayward from where I’d graduated high school some 11 years prior to that. Wandering aimlessly downtown one day, I noticed that the marquee on the Brickhouse nightspot proclaimed, “Percy Mayfield, One Night Only.”

At the time my Blues well didn’t run very deep, but I did know that Percy Mayfield had written a couple of poignant tunes that I was familiar with, one of which was “Hit The Road Jack,” one of many large hits for Papa Ray Charles.

I didn’t even know what Percy looked like. One thing is for sure. My nose was wide open for this man of the Blues. Unbeknownst to me at the time, my life path had already taken a serious detour into Blues territory and this excursion to the Brickhouse was to be one of many.

That evening when I entered the club, the house band was already rockin’. (For the faint of heart and parents of minor children, please be advised that it gets a little kinky, probably in the next paragraph. You have been forewarned and disclaimed!)

Furthermore, CyberSoulChildren, this account is not meant to slander or besmirch the genius of Percy Mayfield. I was there and this is how it went down.

When Percy Mayfield was let out of the crooked booking agents white Cadillac in front of the club, he was very drunk. He also thought he was in Oakland, which, mind you, happens to entertainers who do a lot of one nighters, all the time.

Trouper that he was, Mr. Mayfield sauntered up to the stage, took the microphone and cued the band into a slow Blues. He then sang the following:

“You know I cried last night baby

and I cried the night befo’.

‘said I cried last night baby

and I cried the night befo …

Then to most folk’s astonishment, Percy Mayfield sat down not to far from me. He was done. The band played on and I struck up a conversation with him. Strangely enough, I don’t recall even addressing his abrupt performance. Neither he nor I, or for that matter even the club’s management said anything about it.

At some point a cocaine-addled person of the Brickhouse citizenry offered Percy a toot or three. To my surprise he accepted the offer. I followed them into the bathroom. To my further surprise, I took a couple of snorts myself. (Mind you, I’ve been clean 10 years. If I wasn’t would I be so blatant?)

When the little toot session was over, I noticed Percy about to go back into the club with a dirty nose.

“Percy, you can’t go out there like that,” I said. “Man you are a legend. Clean yourself up for your public.”

“You right, little brother,” he said. “You right.”

In that moment I became his guide for the evening.

We hung together until the club closed at 2 a.m. Blues legend or not, they bum rushed Percy Mayfield and I out of the club before the clock stuck 2:01 a.m.

I thought my guide shift was over. As I bade Mr. Mayfield farewell, he appealed to me solemnly, “Don’t leave me, little brother.”

“You right, man,” I said. “You’re a legend. I can’t leave you.”

I don’t remember much conversation in the two and a half hours I stood in the doorway of the Brickhouse with Percy Mayfield. I remember it getting pretty cold though.

Finally, after 5 a.m., the crooked booking agent in the white Cadillac pulled up and scooped up the Poet Laureate of the Blues, taking him, I imagine to the fify-leven hundred thousandth motel of his career. Percy thanked me as I shook his hand.

I watched the Cadillac carefully navigate down Mission Boulevard. I turned up B Street and headed home in the pre-dawn chill. A pickup truck cruised by at some point. The occupants slowed down to nonchalantly spew the N-word in my direction. The sting of it was deflected by my Karmic Muse.

About a year or so later, I read what was titled “The Last Percy Mayfield Interview” in the Pink Section of the Chronicle. It might’ve been written by Joel Selvin. I do remember that Percy Mayfield was terminally ill during the interview and it was published posthumously. To this day I feel righteously honored and blessed to have been in his presence that night.

One of the most detailed biographies on Percy Mayfield that I found on the web is at the following location: .

Keep prayin’, keep thinkin’ those kind thoughts.


Upcoming cool local events:

Blues Farm with Dave Broida, Blues Monday, 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. June 15, Blue Wing Saloon & Café, 9520 Main St., Upper Lake. Telephone, 707-275-2233, or online, .

Open mike night, 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, June 18. Blue Wing Saloon & Café, 9520 Main St., Upper Lake. Telephone, 707-275-2233, or online, .

Chicken & The Defenders play the Lakeport Summer Concerts at Library Park on Friday, June 19. Library Park, 200 Park St., Lakeport.

Pablo Cruise Friday, June 19. The Charlie Daniels Band Saturday, June 26. Cache Creek Casino Resort, 14455 Highway 16, Brooks. Telephone, 888-77-CACHE, or online, .

Chris Botti in concert, 8:15 p.m. Saturday, June 20. Konocti Harbor Resort & Spa, 8727 Soda Bay Road, Kelseyville. Telephone, 800-660-LAKE, or online at .

Smokey Robinson in concert, 7:15 p.m. Saturday, July 31. Konocti Harbor Resort & Spa, 8727 Soda Bay Road, Kelseyville. Telephone, 800-660-LAKE, or online at .

The Four Tops in Concert, 9 p.m. Saturday, July 31. Cache Creek Casino Resort, 14455 Highway 16, Brooks. Telephone, 888-77-CACHE, or online at .

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

A late night visitor pays his respects at the Moving Wall on Thursday, June 11, 2009, at the Lake County Fairgrounds in Lakeport. Photo by Harold LaBonte.






LAKEPORT – A short and solemn procession on Thursday morning led a memorial for the Vietnam War to the Lake County Fairgrounds on Martin Street, where it will be on display until early next week.

“The Moving Wall,” a half-size replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., was escorted to the fairgrounds by the Patriot Guard Riders.

Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 951 brought the wall to Lake County.

On Thursday morning volunteers set up the memorial in about two hours. Earlier in the week volunteers had put up supporting structures and installed other features including statuary and the Avenue of Flags.

The effort to bring the wall to Lake County began in September of 2006, when VVA submitted an application to host the memorial, said chapter President Dean Gotham.

“It wasn't until 2008 that we received notification that we were on the list,” he said. “We began the preliminary planning early on and really started to hit the decks in October 2008.”

Gotham said the chapter considers bringing the wall here “an act of love.”

He added, “We worked hard because we have an opportunity as veterans to show respect to our fallen brothers and sisters, and we can offer the public an opportunity to show their respect and honor them as well.”

The opening ceremonies for the wall's stay in Lake County will be held at 9 a.m. Friday. It will be open around the clock until it departs from Lakeport on June 15.

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



The first part of the escort for the wall

COBB – A day after The Geysers experienced a 3.1-magnitude earthquake, a 3.0-magnitude quake was recorded in the Cobb area.

The quake was recorded at 2.48 a.m. Thursday at nine-tenths of a mile, the US Geological Survey reported.

US Geological Survey records placed the quake's epicenter two miles west of Cobb, four miles northeast of The Geysers and six miles northwest of Anderson Springs.

No local residents reported feeling the quake, although the US Geological Survey received reports from Oakland, Shingle Springs and Vacaville.

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

Reaching out to the past: Children visit The Moving Wall at the Lake County Fairgrounds on Friday, June 12, 2009. Photo by Harold LaBonte.




LAKEPORT – Hundreds of community members gathered on Friday morning for the solemn opening ceremonies for “The Moving Wall” Vietnam memorial visiting the county this week.

The 9 a.m. ceremony took place at the Lake County Fairgrounds on Martin St.

The event drew men and women of all ages, and veterans from many wars and generations – from Pearl Harbor survivors up to veterans of the wars in the Middle East.

This is the only Northern California stop for the wall for the rest of the year. Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 951, which is hosting the memorial, is expecting visitors from all over this state this weekend.

The Moving Wall will be open for visitation 24 hours a day until the closing ceremonies on June 15.

Speakers at Friday's event included Supervisor Jim Comstock, a Navy veteran who served during Vietnam veteran. Comstock noted that there was “no better place to be than right here, right now.”




Supervisor Jim Comstock, himself a Vietnam veteran, spoke at the opening ceremony on Friday, June 12, 2009. Photo by Harold LaBonte.



Dean Gotham, president of VVA Chapter 951, the organization which is hosting the wall, thanked the community for its support and for making the wall's visit a success.

A table with a single place setting stood in front of the stage, representing prisoners of war and those missing in action. Each object represented a notion for POW and MIA soldiers: the white table-cloth represents the purity of intentions to respond to the call; the red rose represents blood and the family and friends who keep faith; the lemon represents fate; the salt the countless volunteers and families involved in the POW and MIA’s life; the Bible, strength of faith; the candle, the light of hope in loved ones' hearts and the illumination of the path home; and the overturned glass represents the fact that they can not toast with us today.

Three sculptures by local artist Rolf Kriken stand in the field before the wall. Each one has a strong tie to the meaning of The Moving Wall and all that it represents.

Chaplain Herman W. Hughes, LT, USN took the podium to share a few stories and a poem he wrote after Vietnam, entitled “The Street Without Joy.” He introduced the poem, explaining it was named for a stretch of Highway 1 from Dong Ha to Hue that came to be called “The Street Without Joy” during the French-Indochina War. Hughes was in Vietnam in 1968 and wrote the poem, which he dedicated to the people whose names appeared on the wall.

Street Without Joy

Verdant fields like manicured gardens,

Laced delicately with blue and

Starkly contrasted against barren

Dunes and rust hills, flash by

As cool monsoon rains pepper

The windows of the Huey

That carries me high above

The Street Without Joy.

Far below me unimposing.

Ancestral homes are carelessly

Sprinkled across a patchwork of

Rice paddies and stately hedgerows.

Majestic churches lift their

Spires in silent prayer as

Children tend water buffalo on

The Street Without Joy.

Peace and tranquility seem to

Pervade this pastoral scene,

The pain and ravages of war

Long past and almost forgotten.

But, alas, it’s only a sad

And transitory illusion, for

I know that Charlie still walks

The Street Without Joy.




Hughes then read the benediction.

The ceremony ended with a dedication and everyone rose to honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice, as a bugler with the United Veterans Council Military Funeral Honors Team played “Taps.”

Following the ceremony visitors began walking the length of the wall, with the Avenue of Flags – composed of 50 flags that had adorned the caskets of veterans – flying close by. Mementos – flowers, poems and pictures – had already begun to gather along the base of the wall.

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




Dean Gotham, president of the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 951, thanked the community for its support. Photo by Harold LaBonte.




Chaplain Herman "Woody" Hughes read a poem about his time in Vietnam. Photo by Harold LaBonte.




The United Veterans Council Military Funeral Honors Team offered a salute and rifle salvo. Photo by Harold LaBonte.




Jim Harris (center), a World War II veteran who saw action at Pearl Harbor and D-Day, attended The Moving Wall's opening ceremony on Friday, June 12, 2009. Photo by Harold LaBonte.




People walk along the wall, which is being displayed at the Lake County Fairgrounds from June 11 through June 15, 2009. Photo by Harold LaBonte.




Visitors pause to view one of local sculptor Rolf Kriken's original works, on display at The Moving Wall. Photo by Harold LaBonte.

Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 951 President Dean Gotham (left) works to arrange decorative plants for The Moving Wall display on Wednesday, June 10, 2009. Photo by Harold LaBonte.


LAKEPORT – Final preparations are under way for the opening this week of “The Moving Wall” Vietnam memorial.

The Moving Wall is a half-size replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C.

The monument was set to arrive in Lakeport on Wednesday, according to Dean Gotham, president of the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 951 (VVA).

VVA is bringing the wall to the county for its only Northern California stop for the rest of this year.

On Wednesday Gotham and about 15 volunteers continued their preparations at the Lake County Fairgrounds. Earlier this week, a supporting platform and the Avenue of Flags were put in place.

On Thursday at 8 a.m., the truck and trailer transporting the wall will be escorted by the Patriot Guard Riders motorcycle group through downtown Lakeport to the fairgrounds on Martin Street.

There, it will be assembled – beginning at around 9 a.m. – in preparation for the opening ceremony, scheduled for 9 a.m. Friday, Gotham said.

The assembly is estimated to take close to four hours. Afterward, the public will be able to view the wall.

After Friday's opening ceremony, The Moving Wall will be accessible 24 hours day until the closing ceremony on June 15.

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




Divisional flags, representing some of the divisions that Lake County veterans were attached to during the Vietnam War. Photo by Harold LaBonte.




Local sculptor Rolf Kriken's statue honoring injured warriors. Photo by Harold LaBonte.




The Avenue of Flags includes 50 American flags, each representing one of the nation's 50 states. Each flag covered the casket of a veteran before being folded and presented to the veteran's. Each flag has the name and number identifying fallen soldier; families donate the flags for use in the avenue. Photo by Harold LaBonte.

LAKE COUNTY – Local health officials on Friday issued an environmental health advisory regarding the recent appearance of a type of blue-green algae.

During the past several days, Department of Health Services, Division of Environmental Health has received numerous inquiries regarding suspected raw sewage along the shores of Clear Lake near Austin Park, Clearlake Highlands and the inner harbor area of the City of Clearlake.

Upon initial investigation, the substance appears to be a blue-green algae species known as Aphanizomenon. The appearance of this form of algae easily can be mistaken as raw sewage.

According to the Lake County Water Resources Division of Public Works, recent weather and water conditions have been conducive to this type of algal growth.

Further analysis is in progress to confirm the exact species and to clarify any potential health impacts.

As a precaution, it is recommended that individuals of all ages and pets avoid swimming in or ingesting lake water in the affected areas.

Families should exercise caution in keeping children and pets away from the water.

For more information, contact Lake County Environmental Health at 707-263-1164 during regular business hours; after hours call 707-263-2690.

CLEARLAKE – A judge on Thursday sentenced a teenager to seven years in state prison for the fatal May 2008 stabbing of a Clearlake man.

Judge Steve Hedstrom handed down the sentence to Erik Michael McPherson, 19, following a two hour and 40 minute sentencing hearing in Lake County Superior Court's Department 4.

McPherson was convicted in late April of voluntary manslaughter for the stabbing death of 40-year-old Nicolai Chukreeff on May 4 of last year at the Harbor Lite Resort in Clearlake. He originally had been charged with murder.

Hedstrom gave McPherson the middle, six-year term for the voluntary manslaughter charge and an additional year for his conviction for using a knife to commit the crime.

The trial – from jury selection to deliberations and verdict – lasted 38 days and included the testimony of approximately 30 witnesses, Hedstrom said.

According to details of the case recounted in court on Thursday, McPherson's girlfriend drove him to the resort, where Chukreeff and several friends, including Dave Meadows, were having drinks in the resort's gazebo.

Chukreeff reportedly flicked a lit cigarette at McPherson, who didn't react, and then according to testimony by witnesses Chukreeff lunged at McPherson, which started the fight.

McPherson – only 5 feet 4 inches tall and 124 pounds at the time of the stabbing – allegedly used a belt to ward off Chukreeff, who was 5 feet, 6 inches tall and 160 pounds.

Although the main witnesses didn't see him with it, McPherson used a knife to stab Chukreeff in the chest. The defense alleged that McPherson didn't bring the knife to the fight, but his girlfriend testified to seeing him wrap a knife into a red bandanna some time before the fight.

Chukreeff – who collapsed and died at the scene – suffered a chest wound that was five inches long, with a second stab wound that went through his sternum and pierced his heart. The two wounds could have been caused by one motion or two separate actions, based on the testimony of a pathologist.

McPherson then fled from the scene in his girlfriend's car, and was later arrested on a grand theft charge. The knife was never found.

Shortly after the hearing began, Chukreeff's family came forward to offer victim impact statements.

His sister, Michelle Giguiere – accompanied by family members and a Victim-Witness advocate – explained that he went to work at age 16, and was the only one of the five Chukreeff siblings to get his high school diploma.

Chukreeff was a devoted fisherman who enjoyed the lake, and who was dedicated to his friends and family. “Nick shared his life with a lot of people who loved him,” Giguiere said.

He had open heart surgery not long before he died. Giguiere said he'd gotten a clean bill of health just days before the fatal stabbing, and came to tell her the news.

Giguiere said she still struggles with the idea that her beloved brother is gone. She said she sat in the courtroom for many days, watching McPherson draw, make faces and try to make eye contact with her, and she couldn't scream out how much she hates him.

“You cheated him of his life,” she said of her brother and friend.

Now, McPherson is getting “a slap on the wrist” for the death. However, Giguiere also blamed her brother's friends for not intervening to stop the fight.

Giguiere brought with her a golden-framed picture of her brother. She walked up to Hedstrom and handed him the picture.

Hedstrom took the portrait, sat back and held it up, looking at it carefully for several moments before putting it back in Giguiere's hands.

Marieanne Lassen, Chukreeff's partner of 12 years, told the court, “It's been a long road.”

Two days after Chukreeff's death, Lassen said McPherson – who hadn't yet been identified as the suspect in the case – came up to her and said, “Sorry for your loss.”

She called Chukreeff “the greatest gift in my life.”

Early in the hearing, Hedstrom stated that he was against granting McPherson probation. “If you're arguing for probation you're going to have a very high fence to get across.”

Defense attorney Stephen Carter emphasized that none of the witnesses disagreed that Chukreeff had instigated the fight and attacked McPherson. He alleged that another person introduced the knife used to fatally stab Chukreeff into the fight.

“That's your client's version now,” said Hedstrom, who noted there were at least four versions of the story that McPherson had given in interviews with law enforcement.

Carter argued for probation, or at the very least the lower, four-year term, saying that the stabbing resulted from “great provocation.” He accused the Probation Department report of being “extraordinarily biased” for bringing up several petty prior records when McPherson was 6, 12 and 16 years old.

Hedstrom said he was was only giving a certain amount of weight to one case when McPherson was 12.

McPherson had many “fine people” who wrote letters in his support, including his grandparents from Colorado and other community members, said Carter.

The teen has challenges that emerged from his home life, said Carter. “A lot of the negatives about him have come from being raised in an environment where his mother was using drugs and doing everything that went along with it.”

He added, “Mr. McPherson didn't ask for this fight. It came to him and he happened to finish it.” Carter said McPherson is very sorry for Chukreeff's death.

McPherson's actions didn't show a high degree of viciousness or callousness, only a response to being attacked, said Carter.

Hedstrom said he didn't buy the allegation that another person had introduced the knife into the fight. “This is like another version,” he said, noting he'd received no credible evidence that anyone would have a motive to throw a knife into the fight.

The judge also noted that the jury rejected a finding of involuntary manslaughter as well as the allegation that Chukreeff fell on the knife during the fight.

Carter said there's a very clear reason why someone would try to introduce the knife. He said it may have been thrown in to help Chukreeff, but McPherson picked it up instead.

In countering the defense statements, prosecutor John DeChaine stated, “The defense conveniently continues to try to push culpability onto the victim.”

DeChaine said McPherson changed weapons – from the belt to the knife – during the fight. He said there was no evidence that it was necessary for McPherson to pull a knife to defend himself.

“This wasn't his first time with knife play, this wasn't his first time using a knife in a violent manner,” said DeChaine, referring to a 2002 incident in which McPherson allegedly held the point of a knife up against a juvenile's ribs.

Hedstrom noted that letters to the court on McPherson's behalf portrayed “someone with redeeming qualities.”

He gave McPherson the seven-year sentence, with credit for 458 days, of which 399 were for time served.

Hedstrom told McPherson there was no doubt that he had difficulties in his upbringing, but ultimately he was accountable for his life and actions.

“You need to think long and hard about how you're going to live the rest of your life,” Hedstrom told him.

Following court, Chukreeff's friends and family remembered him as a caring, friendly man who helped keep the neighborhood tidy and cared for others.

They also were united in believing McPherson's sentence wasn't long enough.

“His loss will be felt in our community,” said neighbor Art Frazee, who knew Chukreeff for about 10 years. Frazee sat through the sentencing with his wife, Arlette Buckholz.

Buckholz called the situation “really sad.”

Frazee said he hopes McPherson straightens out his life.

Lassen, who agreed that the prison term wasn't enough time, nonetheless said that they should pray for McPherson.

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

LAKEPORT – As a Friday hearing approaches to determine whether or not a Carmichael man's trial for vehicular manslaughter will move forward later this month, the defense has filed motions that, among other things, seek to have the District Attorney's Office recused from the case.

Sailboat enthusiasts are reportedly preparing to show up on the courthouse steps on N. Forbes in Lakeport at 8 a.m. Friday, an hour and a half before a hearing in Bismarck Dinius' case is set to start in Lake County Superior Court. They're also planning to circulate petitions calling for the ouster of District Attorney Jon Hopkins.

Dinius, 41, is accused of vehicular manslaughter and boating under the influence for an April 29, 2006, sailboat crash on Clear Lake.

The sailboat he was steering was hit by a powerboat driven by Russell Perdock, an off-duty sheriff's deputy. The crash mortally injured Willows resident Lynn Thornton, who died a few days later.

According to the case against him, Dinius is charged with vehicular manslaughter for allegedly being under way without running lights. Perdock's power boat has been estimated to have been traveling 45 miles per hour or more at the time of impact, and going up and over the sailboat. No charges were filed against him in the case.

Defense attorney Victor Haltom has submitted two new motions in the case, one seeking an evidentiary hearing regarding having the District Attorney's Office recused from prosecuting Dinius' case and a second to enforce stipulations the defense and prosecution entered into regarding independent forensic testing of Perdock's blood.

Haltom previously was unsuccessful in having the District Attorney's Office removed from the case.

At the same time, it's unclear who will be representing the prosecution on Friday.

Haltom told Lake County News that Deputy District Attorney John Langan, who was assigned Dinius' case early last year, e-mailed him last week to say that Hopkins would be taking over the prosecution himself.

On Wednesday, Hopkins was guarded in responding to a Lake County News inquiry on the matter.

“I'm not going to comment on what's going in,” he said, adding that it was best to wait until Friday to see what happened.

During a May 19 hearing, Langan told visiting Judge J. Michael Byrne that his investigators might not be able to complete the review of new information in the case.

That new information includes witness statements that placed Perdock at Konocti Harbor Resort & Spa before the crash and which supported former sheriff's Sgt. James Beland's statements that he had been ordered not to give Perdock a breathalyzer test at the scene.

Langan told the court at the time that if he couldn't complete the investigation in time for a June 30 trial date, he was considering dropping the charges. He also asked for the June 12 hearing in order to be able to make an announcement regarding whether or not he would be moving forward.

If the District Attorney's Office did drop the case with the intention of refiling following an investigation, it would have two years to refile under the statute of limitations, Hopkins said in an interview late last week.

The case against Dinius was filed in May of 2007, more than a year after the crash. While the statute of limitations on the manslaughter charge runs out after three years, Hopkins said the clock stops running once the case is filed and begins working its way through the courts.

Hopkins wouldn't state a planned course of action on the case – whether or not it would be dropped, investigated and refiled, or whether the trial would begin on June 30 as scheduled.

“Everything is always possible,” he said.

It appears that the case isn't being dropped at this point; a motion to dismiss would have had to be filed last week, and the court clerk's office had no record of such a motion on file.

Defense cites relationships in seeking recusal

Haltom is asking that at the Friday hearing a date to consider the recusal motion be set. His witness list for the recusal motion hearing includes Sheriff Rod Mitchell, Hopkins, Langan, Perdock, District Attorney's Office Investigator John Flynn, Beland, several other sheriff's officials and independent witnesses.

In his 33-page motion, Haltom's cites as justification for the recusal several factors – a relationship between Flynn and Perdock, both members of the Clear Lake Callayomi Masonic Lodge; Hopkins' “prejudgment of the prosecution's newly-directed investigation”; and “repeated and ongoing suppression of exculpatory and third-party culpability evidence” by the district attorney and sheriff's offices, who he also accuses of suppressing information about relationships amongst members of the “prosecution team.”

In the second, 18-page motion, Haltom said the District Attorney's Office has failed to comply with the terms of an agreement in which a sample of Perdock's blood taken at St. Helena Hospital-Clearlake the night of the crash is to be sent for independent testing.

In April, Perdock had submitted two DNA swabs as part of an agreement reached between the prosecution and defense, according to court documents.

In an e-mail sent to Langan May 5, Haltom explained that the independent lab, Forensic Analytical, didn't receive enough of a blood sample to test for the presence of alcohol or opiates.

The results of Perdock's original blood test showed no alcohol but did show a presumptive positive for the presence of opiates, according to investigation records. A second test came back clear, as did a third test.

That first test may have been explained by something as simple as eating food with poppy seeds in it, Haltom said in a previous interview, although he said he questioned Perdock on that point in court and Perdock denied eating any such foods.

In a May 6 e-mail response to Haltom, Langan explained that the Department of Justice Lab only has 2 milliliters – or about .06 of a fluid ounce – of Perdock's blood left, and that's the amount needed by the forensic lab.

“It had been my understanding that the blood would be split for testing at DOJ, but apparently now that cannot happen,” Langan wrote. “I will now try to see what I can do, in order that you may carry out the retesting.”

On June 3, Haltom sent Langan another e-mail, saying no vial of blood for Perdock had been submitted, and that the District Attorney's Office also had failed to provide him with discoverable materials – including Perdock's relationship with Flynn.

He then asked if there were any discoverable relationships, past or present, between Perdock and members of the District Attorney's Office. Court documents don't contain a response from Langan on that question.

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

A small group of about 20 protesters gathered in front of the courthouse on Friday, June 12, 2009, to protest the prosecution of Bismarck Dinius. Photo by Gail Salituri.




LAKEPORT – On Friday, as protesters gathered on the courthouse steps, Lake County's district attorney informed a judge that he intended to move forward with prosecuting a Carmichael man in connection with a fatal 2006 sailboat crash.

District Attorney Jon Hopkins, appearing in a 13-minute trial readiness hearing in the prosecution of Bismarck Dinius, said his office intends to continue with the case.

Visiting Judge J. Michael Byrne also set a June 30 hearing on motions to recuse the District Attorney's Office from the case and to enforce a stipulation for independent forensic analysis, which will delay the trial.

On May 19 Deputy District Attorney John Langan told the court that the case might be dropped because investigators didn't have enough time to evaluate new information before the June 30 trial date.

Langan did not appear in court on Friday; he had notified the defense last week that Hopkins was taking over the case, as Lake County News has reported. Hopkins will be the third prosecutor to handle the case since it was filed in May of 2007.

Dinius, 41, is being charged with vehicular manslaughter involving a boat and boating under the influence.

He was at the tiller of a sailboat owned by Willows resident Mark Weber on April 29, 2006, when the boat – which the District Attorney's Office alleges was under way without lights – was hit by a powerboat driven by Russell Perdock, an off-duty sheriff's deputy.

Dinius is alleged to have had a blood alcohol level of 0.12 at the time of the crash, with Weber alleged to have a blood alcohol level of 0.18. Weber has not been charged with any wrongdoing.

Weber's fiancee, Lynn Thornton, was mortally injured in the crash and died a few days later. Perdock was not charged, although the investigation concluded that he was traveling too fast for conditions. Estimates of the speed of Perdock's powerboat have ranged from 45 miles per hour to more than 60 miles per hour.

Weber attended the hearing along with about 20 other people – friends, family members and supporters of Dinius.

Some of those watching the courtroom proceedings had held signs in front of the courthouse protesting the case's handling, demanding Perdock be charged and calling for Hopkins' ouster.

Victor Haltom, Dinius' attorney, had filed two motions that he wanted the court to consider – one to have the District Attorney's Office recused from the case, the other to enforce a stipulation that Perdock's original blood sample be provided for independent testing, as the District Attorney's Office had agreed to do.

Byrne, who has been handling the case for several months, noted that he hadn't received answers to Haltom's motions from the District Attorney's Office. Hopkins said the motions had arrived this week, and he didn't have the statutory time to prepare.

Hopkins said he received a phone call from the state Attorney General's Office, who Haltom had contacted in regard to his motion to have Hopkins' office removed from the case.

He related that Gerald Engler, the supervising deputy attorney general, said he also would not be able to be prepared to address the motion in the statutory time.

Engler appeared in Lake County Superior Court in August of 2007 when Haltom previously had attempted to have the District Attorney's Office removed from the case, citing close relationships with the sheriff's office. At that time, the Attorney General's Office opposed the motion, which Judge Robert Crone ruled against.

Hopkins suggested a convenient date be set for hearing all the motions. “I think that makes sense,” said Byrne.

Haltom relayed to the court that Engler had said he was available for a hearing either on June 29 or 30.

Last month, Haltom pulled a time waiver that means Dinius' trial must start by July 7 at the latest. But that deadline now comes into conflict with the need to hear the motions, a point Byrne made during the brief hearing.

He said the defendant will “have to bend” on the speedy trial provisions because of the motions. “We deal with conflicting rights on a regular basis,” said Byrne.

DA: No change in position on the case

Byrne said one of the reasons for the Friday hearing was to discuss if the District Attorney's Office planned to move forward on the case.

“That's correct,” replied Hopkins.

Byrne said it was his understanding that if a reason arose not to proceed with trial that it was good to know that in advance in order to prevent the jury commissioner from summoning a large number of jury candidates.

“We have not come to that conclusion,” Hopkins said, referring to the idea of not moving forward.

Haltom said he expected that, if he called all of his witnesses in the recusal motion hearing that it could take more than a day.


Byrne said it's necessary to hear the motion before the trial, which can start as soon as possible afterward. Due to media and local interest, Byrne noted that it would take a “substantial number” of people to get a jury.

Haltom also wanted his motion to enforce the stipulations for the blood tests to be considered.

Byrne asked Hopkins for his position. Hopkins said he would need to look into it to see if a hearing was needed. If it was, it could be scheduled the same day as the hearing on the recusal, he suggested.

Noting that Friday was the last day to begin summoning a jury panel for the June 30 trial date, Byrne said they had to move forward with hearing the recusal motion.

“It does appear to have a sufficient seriousness that it should be heard,” he said, noting the District Attorney's Office has a right to respond.

“I'll find good cause to delay the trial,” he said.

Byrne set June 30 as the date for hearing the motions, saying the trial would begin as soon as possible afterward, noting it would start as soon afterward as possible. He added that if the Attorney General's Office did take over the case, they would need additional time to prepare.

The judge asked Hopkins when he planned to file his responses to Haltom's motions. Hopkins said he hoped to have them filed by June 23.

Haltom said a number of the witnesses he plans to call in the recusal hearing are employees of the Lake County Sheriff's Office and District Attorney's Office. He said that Langan had previously stated in court that the Haltom wouldn't have to subpoena their testimony, that they would be made available. Haltom said he wanted the same assurances from Hopkins.

Hopkins said he didn't have the witness list to which Haltom was referring – and which features Hopkins' own name – “so I can't give him any assurances at this point.”

Byrne said the court still didn't know if the District Attorney's Office was planning to move forward, having missed Hopkins' statement previously.

“We have not come across anything in the investigation so far that would be a reason not to proceed to trial,” Hopkins replied.

Last month Langan indicated that District Attorney's Office investigators likely couldn't complete their investigations into new information in the case in order to be prepared for the June 30 trial date.

That new information includes witness statements placing Perdock at Konocti Harbor Resort & Spa in the hours before the fatal crash, and testimony by sheriff's Deputy Mike Morshed supporting statements by former sheriff's Sgt. James Beland that he was ordered not to give Perdock a breathalyzer test at the scene.

However, on Friday Hopkins indicated no issues with time constraints.

Rather, he said the purpose of the investigation was to find if there was any information that required his office to change its position, which it hadn't.

After the hearing, Dinius said he was frustrated. “It's been three years of my life and it continues on,” he said. He'd hoped officials would “come to their senses” and drop the case.

Everything that's happening in the case is overshadowing the fact that Thornton lost her life, said Dinius. “That's the biggest thing I take away from this.”

Weber criticized the prosecution for more delays, saying of the hearing's outcome, “It sucks.”

He accused Hopkins – who he called “Mr. Perdock's attorney” – of a coverup in the case.

Weber hasn't been to previous hearings, but he promised to come back to support Dinius. “It's time to make noise.”

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




Finley resident Phil Murphy was among protesters calling for changes in the District Attorney's Office on Friday, June 12, 2009. Photo by Gail Salituri.




Bismarck Dinius, following the court appearance, noted he was frustrated that the case wasn't dropped. Photo by Harold LaBonte.




Mark Weber, whose fiancee, Lynn Thornton, died in the April 2006 crash, attended the hearing in the Bismarck Dinius case on Friday, June 12, 2009. Photo by Gail Salituri.

LAKE COUNTY – The unusually cool spring weather will continue through the weekend in Lake County, with a slight chance of rain on Saturday, but some forecast models predict a return to normal temperatures next week.

According to the National Weather Service in Sacramento (NWS), Lake County will see an increase in clouds and chances for thunderstorms after noon Friday, with a chance of rain at 20 percent with high temperatures in the mid-70s.

On Saturday, the possibility of showers increases to 30 percent, but decreases into the evenings the NWS states, with temperatures ranging from a high of 72 to a low of 50.

Daytime temperatures are predicted to return closer to normal on Tuesday reaching into the mid-80s with a slight chance of rain, but Monday will remain in the 70s according to the NWS.

Forecast models from the NWS and The Weather Channel (TWC) differ for the remainder of the week with TWC predicting a return to normal temperatures with highs in the mid- to upper-80s, while NWS forecasts partly cloudy skies with temperatures topping off in the low- to mid- 80s.

For more weather information, visit the link on the home page to US Weather Service.

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

THE GEYSERS – A 3.1-magnitude earthquake hit The Geysers area early Wednesday morning.

The quake was recorded at 2:59 a.m. at a depth of 1.7 miles, according to the US Geological Survey.

Its epicenter was located two miles north of The Geysers, four miles west of Cobb and seven miles northwest of Anderson Springs, the US Geological Survey reported.

The most recent earthquake measuring 3.0 or above was recorded early on the morning of May 18, when The Geysers area experienced a 3.4-magnitude temblor, as Lake County News has reported.

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

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