Dinius found not guilty in boat crash case

August 20, 2009 7:00:11 PM PDT
The jury has reached a verdict in the fatal boat crash case in Lake County. Sailor Bismarck Dinius was found not guilty for the death of a passenger on the boat he was steering, when a powerboat driven by a top sheriff's official slammed into them. The I-Team first began investigating this case more than two years ago.

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Over the past two days, it took the jury seven hours to reach a verdict. Dinius can now try and put this sad chapter behind him.

Dinius kept his emotions in check while the court clerk read the jury's verdict.

"We the jury in the above entitled cause find the defendant, Bismarck Flores Dinius, not guilty of count one," read the the court clerk.

Dinius was found not guilty of felony boating under the influence, causing the death of Lynn Thornton, a passenger on the sailboat Dinius was steering at night. A powerboat driven by the No. 2 official in the sheriff's department, Russell Perdock, slammed into them at a reported 40 to 55 miles an hour.

The prosecutor argued Dinius was drunk and didn't make sure the sailboat's running lights were on.

The emotion came for Dinius and his wife after the jury also cleared him of misdemeanor boating under the influence.

The jury hung on a third count of boating with a blood alcohol content greater than .08, and the court dismissed the charge.

Noyes: "What's going through you mind?"

Dinius: "Oh gosh, I just want to go home. Ready to go home."

Noyes: "Been a long time, huh?"

Dinius: "It's been a really long three years, yes."

Noyes: "Can you explain at all what it was like to hear those words -- not guilty?"

Dinius: "I don't ever want to be in that position ever again and I don't, you know, don't want that on anybody. You're wrongly accused of something, you have to stand up for yourself."

"I've known he was innocent," said wife Rochelle Dinius. "I knew that they would do the right thing, all along we've had a certain confidence, but not knowing, having 12 people decide, it was scary."

It has been a long ordeal for the entire Dinius defense team.

"Just happy for Bismarck, that it was the right result reached by the jurors in this case, " said defense attorney Victor Haltom. "They did the right thing."

Several jurors had tears in their eyes as they left the courtroom and declined to comment, but we spoke with two jurors about their decision.

Mr. Welsh (juror): "I think it was different for every single person. For me it was the technical definition of 'obligation of the person that was operating the boat.'"

Noyes: "And you found that it wasn't Dinius who was operating the boat?"

Welsh: "I do not feel that under the law it was, no."

Juror No. 1 didn't want to be identified, but he said Perdock and sailboat owner Mark Weber, who was manning the sails, should have faced charges, as well.

"I think they all should have stood trial -- Perdock, Dinius, Weber all should have stood trial for their part in this whole thing," said the juror. "So to single out Dinius we felt was really unfair."

Through his secretary, prosecutor Jon Hopkins said he was unavailable for comment. Later, we caught up to him outside the courthouse and he was reluctant to discuss the jury's decision.

Hopkins: "You have to find out what it is that was the basis. You just can't say, 'well, we know,' because you don't."

Noyes: "Are you disappointed in the verdict?"

Hopkins: "Well, I'm not going to express any sentiments."

Noyes: "Something else you want to say about the trial or what happened?"

Hopkins: "No."

Dinius was fired from his job at Verizon Wireless after working there for 10 years. The company wouldn't let him take a leave of absence to attend the trial. He will now look for a new job as he works to rebuild his life with his wife and step-daughter.

Dan Noyes has been tweeting from Lake County throughout the trial. Read his tweets regarding today's verdict at twitter.com/dannoyes and check out his blog for more on the trial.

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