Charges remain the same in fatal boat crash

February 20, 2009 7:06:44 PM PST
A Lake County superior court judge has dealt another blow to the defense in a fatal boat crash case. However, it was also a defeat for the family of the woman killed in the crash more than two years ago. The I-Team was there in court Friday when the judge announced his decision.

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Judge Richard Martin decided that felony manslaughter and boating under the influence charges against defendant Bismarck Dinius should not be reduced. As the I-Team reported Thursday, the family of the victim -- Lynn Thornton of Willows -- believes the wrong man is standing trial.

"I really don't think that they had a choice, my sister or anybody on that boat had a choice of what was going to happen to them. Mr. Perdock just slammed into them, he wasn't paying attention and it resulted in the death of my sister," said Roger Thomsen.

Russell Perdock, No. 2 in the Lake County Sheriff's Department, was operating a powerboat at night as fast as 45 miles an hour by his own admission, when it slammed into the sailboat, killing Thornton. Prosecutors charged Dinius, who happened to be steering the sailboat, in the death. He had been drinking, and prosecutors claim the sailboats lights were off.

The defendant took the judge's decision in stride.

"This is an absolutely ridiculous charge against me. It's pretty obvious that Clear Lake, or the county of Clear Lake I should say, and the D.A.'s office, is persistent and is going to force a jury to make a decision," said Dinius.

The judge ruled that the defense could bring up the motion to reduce the charges after the trial in May. Thornton's close friend, who came to speak for her family, was frustrated by the decision.

"None of us ever thought that Dinius should be prosecuted. He was sitting next to Lynn on the boat and they're prosecuting the wrong person," said Carol Stambuck, Thornton's friend.

"How many cases do you know, how many cases where there's a death of a victim and somebody is charged with that, are the family members of that victim saying, 'Hey you're charging the wrong guy," said Victor Haltom, Dinius' defense attorney.

The prosecutor did not speak with the I-Team. The defense is now trying to have Perdock's blood sample from that night retested to make sure it was actually his blood. Next stop, the trial in May. The I-Team will be there to continue to report on this case.

You can read the letters from Thornton's family in the I-Team blog here.

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