Bismarck Dinius, who was charged with manslaughter in the 2006 death of Lynn Thornton, appeared in Lake County Superior Court November 29 to plead not guilty to the charges, and to request that Lake County prosecutors be removed from the case. Thornton died when the sailboat she and Dinius were aboard was struck at high speed by Lake County Deputy Sheriff Russell Perdock’s powerboat. Lake County prosecutors dismissed Perdock’s speed as a causal factor in Thornton’s death and, instead, decided Dinius, who was sitting at the helm at the time of impact but was not the boat’s skipper, was to blame because he didn’t turn on the boat’s running lights. Dinius’ attorney, Victor Haltom, insists that the local sheriff and district attorney "failed to perform a fair and impartial investigation." The judge felt differently and struck down the motion to remove the local DA.
ABC Channel 7’s I-Team reporter Dan Noyes also reported on their website that Perdock’s story keeps changing. When a sergeant who works for him interviewed him the night of the accident, he claimed his speed was about 40 mph. Several weeks later, an independent investigator with the Sacramento Sheriff’s Office says Perdock told him he was going between 40-45 mph. Now, in depositions for a variety of lawsuits (Perdock is suing Dinius and Mark Weber, the boat’s owner, Dinius and Weber are suing Perdock, and Lynn Thornton’s estate is suing all three), Perdock claims those estimates were wrong. After talking with his lawyers, he now puts his speed at 30-35 mph. Witnesses on shore claimed his speed was closer to 50 mph.
Regardless, even if Perdock was only going 30 mph, it was way too fast for the conditions — he admitted in the deposition that he could only see 10 feet in front of him, and California law requires boaters to "be prepared to stop within the space of half the distance of forward visibility." Even the Sacramento investigator acknowledged Perdock broke the law by failing to maintain a safe speed. Yet Bismarck Dinius is the one on trial. (For the record, Dinius’ attorney claims the sailboat’s running lights were on and that the impact most likely flipped the breaker to the off position.)
As we reported in the December issue of Latitude 38, a legal defense fund for Dinius has been set up. You can send checks made out to Bismarck Dinius, writing "Bismarck Dinius Defense Fund" in the memo section, and mail them to Sierra Central Credit Union, Attn: Brian Foxworthy, Branch Manager, 306 N. Sunrise Ave., Roseville, CA 95661.