We covered the hearing at Lake County Superior Court in Lakeport this afternoon. Bismarck Dinius pleaded “not guilty” to charges of vehicular manslaughter and boating under the influence. (If you look at it from his perspective, Dinius gets run over by a powerboat, and then gets charged for the fatal injuries inflicted by that powerboat. The prosecutor tells us he based his charging decision on reports that the sailboat’s running lights were off at the time of the crash. We’ve highlighted the conflicting testimony on that issue in previous reports.)
The judge denied a defense motion to remove the Lake County District Attorney from the case. Defense attorney Victor Haltom still insists prosecutors are charging the wrong man, to protect one of their own. The number two official in the local Sheriff’s Department, Chief Deputy Russell Perdock, was driving the powerboat that night that slammed into the sailboat, killing 51-year-old Lynn Thornton of Willows.
Haltom wanted the State Attorney General's Office to take over the case, but Senior Assistant Attorney General Gerald Engler successfully argued today that the defense did not prove a conflict of interest, and "no defendant, whether he believes the case against him is strong or weak, no defendant is entitled to pick his prosecutor."
At the start of the hearing, Superior Court Judge Robert Crone announced he had something to disclose. He performed the wedding ceremony 15-18 years ago for Russell Perdock, and he did so under unusual circumstances. Judge Crone explained he had spent that day hunting deer, and was still in his orange hunting bib when the phone rang. The judge who was supposed to perform the ceremony failed to show up. Judge Crone rushed to Konocti Harbor for Perdock’s service. In court today, Judge Crone said his previous contact with Perdock would not affect how he handles the case.