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Is The Wrong Man Being Charged In Last Year's Boating Death Of Lynn Thornton?

June 8 - Lake County, CA

According to reports we received last year, on the evening of April 29, 2006, Lynn Thornton of Willows died of injuries after Chief Deputy Russ Perdock of the Lake County Sheriff's Department slammed the Baja 24 powerboat he was operating into Beats Working II, the O'Day 27 sailboat Thornton was a passenger on. The sailboat was owned by her fiancé, Mark Weber, although Bismarck Dinius of Sacramento County was at the helm.

Apparently there were several factors that might have contributed to the tragedy, which took place around 9:30 p.m., and after Beats Working II had finished second in the Konocti Half Cup sailboat race. First of all, it appears the sailboat was not showing any running lights. Also, after the accident, owner Weber's blood alcohol level was reported to be .18, more than twice the legal limit. But neither of those things, separately or together, were an immediate cause of Thornton's death.

As is often the case on the water, speed kills. At the time of the impact, Beats Working II was apparently drifting under sail in zephyrs, while the Perdock-operated Baja 24 was allegedly traveling as fast as 40 mph (eye witness accounts vary). Many believe that the after-sunset speed limit on Clear Lake is just 5 mph, but District Attorney Jon E. Hopkins says there is no such speed limit and that there is no way to prove beyond a reasonable doubt exactly how fast Perdock was going or that his speed was the cause of the collision. We very seriously doubt that Thornton would have died had the powerboat hit the sailboat at just 5 mph, and that strongly suggests - at least to us - that Deputy Perdock's seemingly reckless operation of the motorboat was the primary cause of Thornton's death.

We don't claim to know all the facts in this case, and haven't seen any of the evidence, but what strikes us as bizarre is that today, helmsman Bismarck Dinius - but not owners Perdock or Weber - will be arraigned. He's being charged with felony Vehicular Manslaughter Involving a Vessel and misdemeanor Boating Under the Influence (his BAC was .12). According to a release by D. A. Hopkins, "Dinius was the operator of the sailboat, seated at the rudder [sic], when the powerboat collided with it." We were stunned that the D.A. apparently has no plans to charge Perdock or Weber! D.A. Hopkins explained that "California Harbors and Navigation Code provides that the 'operator' of a vessel is the person steering it. Even if the owner/skipper was telling the person at the helm what to do, none of that is taken into consideration for the definition of boating under the influence."

D.A. Hopkins sought an independent opinion in the matter - perhaps in order to avoid the appearance of impropriety - by having the California Attorney General's Office review the case to determine which charges should be filed against whom, and to determine if he should be recused from the case based upon a close working relationship with the Lake County Chief Deputy Sheriff or the Sheriff's Office in general. The California Attorney General's office didn't find any reason for the D.A. to step down and/or to turn the case over to the Attorney General for prosecution. We do. One of the investigators in the case was Tom Clements, who had recently retired as a Lieutenant with the Clear Lake Police Department! Why do we get the vibe that Lake County law enforcement is like that of the Old South in the '60s?

Like we said, we don't know all the facts but, on the surface, it sure seems to us that Deputy Perdock is the party primarily responsible for the death. A distant second in the line of responsibility would seem to be Weber, who, under maritime law (which, according to D.A. Hopkins, is considered civil law), is ultimately responsible for the safe operation of his vessel - including showing running lights after sunset. We hope that Dinius has a good lawyer, because it seems to us he's getting hung out to dry. As for the estate of Lynn Thornton, we hope it has the resources necessary to hire the best damn big city lawyer possible so they can make sure justice is seen in her death.

If you were a witness to the collision, or if you have an opinion on the case, we'd love to hear from you. Send your email to richard.

- latitude / rs


A Gay Circumnavigation As Early As '92-'96

June 8 - Southern California

"I read Wednesday's 'Lectronic item about Larry Jacobson and Ken Smith of the Emeryville-based Steven's 50 Julia wondering if they might be the first openly gay couple to have circumnavigated," writes Patrick Magers of the Newport Beach-based Misjudged II. "But two close friends of mine, Dr. Craig Wiese and Mark Spanjiian, a gay couple, circumnavigated between '92 and '96. They did it aboard the San Diego-based Panda 40 pilothouse Pandarosa. Upon their return in '96, Mark resumed business interests and Craig resumed practice in San Diego as a psychologist. Ultimately, Pandarosa was sold, but Craig later purchased a 45-ft cat that he lives on at Harbor Island West in San Diego."

Craig Wiese's Kennex 45 Gato Go was the only other boat at
White's Landing on Monday.
Photo Latitude / Richard
© 2007 Latitude 38 Publishing, Inc.

What's so 'small world' about this is that on Monday of this week, the Wanderer and Doña de Mallorca were anchored at White's Landing, Catalina. There was only one other boat in the whole place, a Kennex 45 cat Gato Go. Two guys kayaked over, so naturally, we gave them a tour of Profligate. One of them was Craig, and we're embarassed to say that we can't remember the name of the other fellow, but we think it was Mark. By the way, Magers, who had so much fun on the last Ha-Ha he's going to do it in '08, made sure that Wiese and Spanjiian didn't mind this information getting out. We've had additional reports of gay couples who circumnavigated, but not from the principals, so we're not releasing that information. Nonetheless, congratulations to all of you!

- latitude / rs

Passport Rules Suspended

June 8 - Washington D.C.

Under pressure from thousands of irate summer travelers and their Senators, the Bush administration temporarily suspended the strict passport rules that went into effect in January. The new rules required all US citizens flying to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda to have a passport. Since the implementation of the rules, passport processing centers across the country have been inundated with applications, causing a tremendous backlog and long delays in processing the applications. With their travel plans looming and no sign of their passports, vacationers started getting vocal with their Congressmen who, in turn, got vocal with the State Department.

The suspension - in effect until at least September - doesn't mean travelers won't have to get their passport though. They must show proof that they've applied for one in the form of a receipt from the State Department, in addition to a government-issued ID. Of course anyone without a passport may undergo more, uh, invasive scrutiny at security checkpoints but at least they'll be able to get on the plane.

The suspension doesn't affect those crossing the borders by car or boat, who will have to show their passports starting next year.

- latitude / ld

Terrorists to Target The America's Cup? Don't Laugh!

June 8 - Valencia, Spain

We're not talking about Al Qaeda, but ETA, the Basque separatist group that just broke off a 15-month ceasefire with Spain's Socialist government. The ETA's threats are not to be taken lightly. Over the years the ETA has committed over 900 killings and many kidnappings in Spain and France, and 500 ETA militants are still held in prison. Founded in 1959, the Marxist-Leninist group wants their own country, and attempts by the current Spanish government to mollify them have failed.

- latitude / rs

A Boat Called Charlie

June 8 - Sausalito

Although largely overshadowed by the trendy shops and art galleries of its downtown tourist district, evidence of Sausalito's salty maritime soul can still be found in a number of low-key workshops along the waterfront.

In one of them, North Bay Boat Works, shipwright Anton Hotter has recently built a museum-quality 17-ft Swampscott Dory. Fitted out for both rowing and sailing, she has been named after a well-loved Sausalito waterfront character, the late Charlie Merrill. Tomorrow, (June 9) from 1 to 4 p.m., the Richardson Bay Maritime Association, a nonprofit that sponsored the project, invites one and all to witness the official launching of this beautiful little craft at the historic Spaulding Wooden Boat Center. (See map at www.spauldingcenter.org/visit.html) After the launch, the dory will be available to the public for test sails or rowing, and in the future will be available for rentals.

The Charlie Merrill, fit for a museum, yet ready to sail or row.
Courtesy RBMA
© 2007 Latitude 38 Publishing, Inc.

Co-founded by Charlie, the RBMA's mandate has always been to protect and revitalize Sausalito's working waterfront. With that in mind, Association members hope the Charlie Merrill will be the first of a class of dories built in Sausalito for sailing on the bay. Learn more at: www.rbma.net/CharlieProject.html.

- latitude / at

Taking a Stand on Ocean Preservation

June 8 - Washington, D.C.

Vikki N. Spruill, President and CEO of the Ocean Conservancy organization reminds us that today is World Ocean Day. "It is a day for each of us to celebrate our relationship with the ocean. The ocean provides us with food, a prosperous economy and inspiration for all who come near it. But the effects of global climate change are steadily taking their toll on the health of the ocean."

This and other international organizations involved with ocean preservation warn that the world's oceans and coastal regions are expected to be heavily impacted by climate change. Spruill explains: "Increased ocean warming, acidification, rising sea levels, and unprecedented changes to the distribution and abundance of fish and wildlife are among some of the feared results. These results will only intensify over time-unless we stand together and do something about it." With that in mind, she urges us all to take action by telling our Representatives in Congress to support legislation that would curb carbon dioxide emissions and create a comprehensive national framework to address the impacts of global climate change. Go to https://secure2.convio.net/toc/site/Advocacy?id=369 for more.

- latitude / at

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