From our interview, it’s clear that Lake County District Attorney Jon Hopkins is not focusing on the speed at which Chief Deputy Sheriff Russell Perdock drove his power boat, the night it crashed into a sailboat. Perdock told a D.A.’s investigator, it was 40-45 miles an hour.
51-year-old Lynn Thornton of Willows, a passenger on the sailboat, died from her injuries. (You can read more of “Lynn’s Story” here.)
Hopkins has charged the man who happened to be steering the sailboat at the time, Bismarck Dinius, with manslaughter based on one accusation – that the sailboat’s running lights were off at the time of the crash. We'll explore many of the issues in tonight’s report at 6, but there’s one more element I’d like to share with you – this evidence picture.
It’s a sheriff’s photograph of the sailboat’s control panel. As you can see, it shows the sailboat’s cabin lights may have been on at the time of the crash, and that its running lights may have been off. But, it’s not that simple. Marine investigators tell me the sailboat’s control panel works much like the circuit breakers in your home, and the switch for the running lights may have flipped off, when the powerboat hit the sailboat. Further, a sheriff’s video shows people moving around and in Perdock’s boat, just after the crash. Some of the deputies on the scene that night work directly for Perdock. In a deposition, he described his job as the number two man in the Sheriff’s Office – he oversees investigations, internal affairs, promotions, and the department’s finances. The defense may argue that someone could have changed the settings on the sailboat’s control panel, and that the chain of evidence may have been violated.
Just another piece of the puzzle, in an intriguing – and, very sad – story.
We’ll have more next week. At the very least, we’ll tell you what happens in Lake County Superior Court August 31st, when a judge considers the defense’s motion to remove the District Attorney from the case. You can read more about that motion here.