Witnesses contradict Perdock's testimony

August 12, 2009 6:40:53 PM PDT
The defense went on the offensive in the fatal boat crash trial out of Lake County. Witness after witness called to contradict the testimony of the sheriff's official driving the powerboat that slammed into a sailboat.

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The defense tried to blow holes in the prosecution case by calling 10 witnesses.

Sailor Bismarck Dinius is accused of causing the death of passenger Lynn Thornton, by failing to have the boat's running lights on during a nighttime cruise. But Wednesday's testimony placed blame with Lake County Sheriff's Captain Russell Perdock, whose powerboat hit the sailboat.

"I could see he was traveling at a very high rate of speed for nighttime," testified witness Hans Peter Elmer.

Elmer is a retired police sergeant for the East Bay Regional Parks who oversaw marine investigations there. He watched the crash from the Young Scandinavians Club and estimated Perdock's speed at 50 to 55 miles an hour.

Elmer: "I said there's an idiot for you, he's going to kill himself or somebody else."

Haltom: "OK, then what happened?"

Elmer: "A few seconds, I would estimate maybe five, six seconds later, I heard the loud crash of fiberglass."

Tuesday, Perdock testified his boat was traveling only 35 miles an hour. Perdock also claimed the sailboat's running lights were off, but two more witnesses joined others who say they saw the lights on.

"I saw everybody get on the boat, I saw the lights on, they all waved, I waved to them, I wanted to go," testified witness Jean Strak.

Haltom: "Did you have occasion to observe whether the lights on the sailboat were on when it left?"

Julie Knight (witness): "They were, absolutely."

Haltom: "And how long did you watch the sailboat?"

Knight: "Probably about four minutes."

Perdock's ex-wife testified that the timeline he provided investigators is not true -- that he left an hour earlier for the cruise than he testified.

Perdock also said he did not set foot on Konocti Resort the night of the crash.

Haltom: "When you came on work that day at 6 p.m., did you see Russell Perdock at Konocti?"

Dennis Olson (former Konocti Resort security chief): "Yes, I did."

Olson was in charge of security at Konocti Resort, and he says he saw Perdock at two of the resort's bars.

Olson: "The main bar and the Tenderfoot Outdoor Bar near the pool."

Haltom: "Did you talk to him at all?"

Olson: "Yes, I did. I'm sure that we said something like, 'Good evening. How are you?"

Konocti's night manager also spotted Perdock.

Joe Gliebe (Konocti resort manager): "I just briefly saw him, 'hi,' and then I walked on, that was it."

Hopkins: "You kind of waved?"

Gliebe: "Yes."

Speed skier John Jansen also testified.

Haltom: "Did you see him with any drink in his hand?"

Jansen: "Yeah, everybody had a cup in their hand."

Jansen says he followed Perdock from the Konocti Bar out onto the water.

Haltom: "Did you do anything else with Russell Perdock that night?"

Jansen: "Me and him raced across the lake."

The man who towed in the sailboat reported hearing Perdock on shore after the crash tell a sheriff's deputy he had been at Konocti and was heading to a nearby bar at Richmond Park.

Haltom: "Did you hear Russell Perdock state something about having a soda at Konocti?"

Peter Erickson (witness): "Yes, I did."

Haltom: "Did you hear him say that he was going to get a soda at Richmond?"

Erickson: "Yes, I did."

The case is winding down and closing arguments are scheduled for a week from Thursday.

There was an interesting sidebar during Wednesday's court session about a lunchtime encounter with a juror. Read more about that in a new I-Team Blog.

BLOG: Defense on the offensive

The I-Team's Dan Noyes is following this story directly from inside the Lake County courthouse. Follow his updates from the trial on his Twitter page: twitter.com/dannoyes and check out his blog for a compilation of the day's events.

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