Manslaughter charge dropped in Lake Co. case

July 21, 2009 7:30:05 PM PDT
There was a major development in a fatal boat crash case in Lake County Tuesday. The prosecutor has dropped the most serious charge against the sailor standing trial.

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It has been more than three years since a power boat driven by the number two official in the Lake County Sheriff's Department crashed into a sailboat at night, killing a passenger on the sailboat.

The prosecutor only filed charges against the man steering the sailboat. Bismarck Dinius had been drinking and the District Attorney argued the sailboat's running lights were off. But Tuesday, Jon Hopkins announced he was dropping one of the charges.

"I would at this time move to dismiss the count one of the first amended information in the interest of justice," Hopkins said.

Count one, the most serious charge -- vehicular manslaughter -- was dismissed.

Dinius still faces a felony boating under the influence charge and two related misdemeanors.

"We feel pretty positive, we should never have had these charges against me, so I think that our case is very strong, we're ready to go, we want to get this thing over with so I can get on with my life," Dinius said.

Also Tuesday, the judge took up a defense motion accusing the district attorney of misconduct. This past Friday afternoon, with jury selection underway, Hopkins posted an "open letter" on the county government website, asking, "Why do so many people support drunken sailors on the lake at night with their running lights off?" The letter blasted the defense and laid out the prosecution's case.

"Calling Mr. Dinius a drunken sailor repeatedly, it's something that almost takes your breath away that he would do it while we're in the middle of picking a jury," Dinius' attorney Victor Haltom said.

"We have had a blatant publicity campaign for months and months and months from the defense," Hopkins countered.

The judge called the timing of Hopkins' letter "bad," but did not sanction him.

"I'm going to find that I don't think there's been action that is of a level of misconduct that demands relief at this time," Lake County Superior Court Judge J. Michael Byrne said.

As for the man driving the powerboat that night, Captain Russell Perdock remains on paid leave. The Sheriff's Department will not say whether his status is connected to the boat crash case.

Jury selection continues this week with opening statements expected for next Tuesday.

LINK: Manslaughter Charge Dismissed in Boat Crash

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