As I write this, negotiations are underway in Sacramento in civil lawsuits filed in connection with the fatal boat crash on Clear Lake last year.
As we showed in our first two reports, the number two man in the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, Russell Perdock, slammed his powerboat into a sailboat at night, killing Lynn Thornton of Willows.
Exactly one year after the accident, the Lake County District Attorney filed manslaughter charges in the case – not against Chief Deputy Perdock, but against the man who happened to be steering the sailboat at the time, Bismarck Dinius. Prosecutor Jon Hopkins contends Dinius is responsible because the sailboat’s running lights were off at the time. As we reported, there are conflicting accounts on the issue of lights.
On the civil side, as you might expect, the lawsuits are flying. Lynn Thornton’s Estate and her 21-year-old son are suing Chief Deputy Perdock, Bismarck Dinius, sailboat owner Mark Weber, and James Walker, Perdock’s longtime friend who was riding in the power boat with his 14-year-old daughter. Dinius is suing Perdock. Weber is suing Perdock. Walker is suing Perdock. And, Perdock is suing Dinius and Weber.
Sources familiar with today’s negotiations say they’re considering two pots of money at this point -- from Perdock’s boat insurance and from Weber’s boat insurance. The attorneys will apparently deal with that first, and if the amount of money is not great enough, they could go for the defendants’ personal assets.
The sources also say there is little chance of the matter settling today for one simple reason. At least one more lawsuit appears to be on the way, from two passengers in the sailboat, Zina Dotti and Ed Dominguez. The I-Team’s interviewed them, and they’ll be part of a look at the Lake County D.A.’s case, this Thursday at 6pm. Tonight at six, we’ll have comments from Lynn Thornton’s son as he headed into the negotiations, and a “no comment” from Russell Perdock and his attorney.
Tuesday, August 21st 3pm Update
We have an update to the criminal case. The defense attorney for Bismarck Dinius filed a motion on July 30th to remove the Lake County District Attorney from the case, arguing, “In a classic case of misdirected blame, the Lake County District Attorney’s Office is prosecuting Bismarck Dinius – a man who was involved in, but in no way responsible for the fatal boating collision. The district attorney’s office is positing Mr. Dinius as the fall guy, seeking to save the neck of Chief Deputy Perdock.” The defense attorney wants the State Attorney General’s Office to take over the case. A Lake County Superior Court judge will decide the issue at a hearing on August 31st. For that proceeding, the Attorney General’s Office has just filed this opinion – they should not take over the case. Among the reasons: “It is well established that a district attorney’s office may properly prosecute members of law enforcement agencies including high ranking members of those offices.” We’ll be there in court next week to see how it all plays out.