Interesting Cases

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Topic: The Trial of Bismark Dinius
Terri Parrow
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Posted: 31 July 2009 at 8:26am | IP Logged

Many Seaworthy readers have asked about Bismark Dinius, who was charged with manslaughter after the sailboat he was steering was run down by a performance boat driven by a deputy sheriff one night on California's Clear Lake ("A Strange Case of Justice," Seaworthy, October, 2008). The trial is now underway and the two links below are posting updates. With either link, the quickest way to access articles is to do a Search with the name Bismark Dinius.

 

KGO TV in San Francisco: http://abclocal.go.com/kgo

 

Record-Bee, a local newspaper in Clear Lake County: http://www.record-bee.com

 

Note: The original manslaughter charge was recently changed to Boating Under the Influence. While this may seem like good news, the two charges have almost identical potential jail terms - four years vs. three years.

Edited by Terri Parrow on 31 July 2009 at 8:29am
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jfry
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Regarding the current trial going on right now, obviously my support goes out to Bismarck Dinius, and especially so due to the attempt at "good old boy" protection. What strikes me to respond, however, is the lights issue in general. After boating for 45 years, quite a bit after dark, why has the boating industry never insisted on clearer, larger, brighter, more, lighting on nighttime boats? It is always a struggle and nervewracking to be on constant lookout for a smaller vessel with small lights. You certainly don't have that kind of problem with automobiles at night. I know all about "tradition", etc., but safety could certainly be enhanced quite simply with more lights.
TranquilityBase
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Good point.

Remember, these are the same regulators that think it is necessary and prudent to have pyrotechnic flares that expire every three years on our boats.






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skyray
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To some extent this plays out with Bill Maher's comment about the Harvard professor arrested in Cambridge.  You can bet your bottom dollar that if I had been driving the go-fast powerboat that Dinius would not have been charged with anything.  Why aren't they honest for a change and charge him with getting in the way of a rogue wreckless cop who was going too fast for conditions because in his opinion the rules don't apply to cops?
Edited by skyray on 31 July 2009 at 5:50pm
prowlersfish
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skyray wrote:
To some extent this plays out with Bill Maher's comment about the Harvard professor arrested in Cambridge.  You can bet your bottom dollar that if I had been driving the go-fast powerboat that Dinius would not have been charged with anything.  Why aren't they honest for a change and charge him with getting in the way of a rogue wreckless cop who was going too fast for conditions because in his opinion the rules don't apply to cops?  

 

But its ok to be drinking when driving a sail boat ????? BULL

The cop and dinius boat should be in Jail and if he was on a power boat he still would have been charged .

Edited by prowlersfish on 31 July 2009 at 5:57pm
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0655jmb1
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Having been a deputy/sheriff for 40+ years and this story reeks of the lack of common sense and the "Good Ole Boy" syndrome.  Dinius is guilty of DUI, and should be charged for it, but it is obvious that he was in no way responsible for this accident.  The chief deputy was travelling too fast for conditions and he failed to yield the way to the sailboat as the law prescribes.  I believe the jury will bear this out in the end.
wjmeng
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As a long time boater and frequent night boater who has had a nighttime collision with an unlighted buoy located in the middle of the channel of Key West Harbor while I was completely sober and running about 18-20 MPH. I can't understand how anyone would be running at a speed in excess of 40 MPH at night. My boat is equipped with flood lights and I can see a boat for about 250-300 feet, and at my travel speed of 20 MPH I have time to avoid obstacles, although black painted lobster trap buoys can be a challenge. The boat I hit the buoy with didn't have lights and I was barely planed off and completely sober, but still nicked the buoy. Fortunately we weren't injured and continued to the dock. I frequently encounter unlighted boats while returning to port and most of them are sailboats, but that still is no reason to think that running one over should be the sailboats fault. If you are in control of your boat and operating safely, you will be able to avoid anything except small or submerged objects. Dinius is being set up by the good ole boy network!!!!
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Posted: 31 July 2009 at 6:08pm | IP Logged

If you drink and drive you deserve whatever you get either on the water or behind the wheel.  I've seen too many tragedies of innocent people because of lousy drunks.  Sorry to sound so cold but it has to stop.

richardschurman
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Setting aside the facts given all boaters know or should know:  1) A sailboat under sail only has the ROW over a powerboat;  2) Every boater has an inherent obligation to avoid collision at all times regardless of ROW;  3)  All boats must be operated in a safe (and sane) and prudnet manner regardless of propulsion method; 4)  It is against the law to consume alcohol beyond the legal limit and be in control of a boat (or vehicle - not just operating but 'control'); and 5) Finally, police officers are sworn to uphold the law and be truthful.  All of these fundamental elements were reportedly violated by both parties.  The issue here is accountibility for one's actions.  The sailboat operator is being held accountible but it sounds like the "blue line" of unethical, dishonest and criminal police behavior is in play.  I don't have any issue with the sailboater operating the sailboat while under the influence but I have a serious problem with the police who continue to practice cover-up after cover-up in these kinds of incidents.  To all police officers who might read this:  If you want the public to respect you and yoru law enforcement efforts then it behooves you to change this attitude that it is acceptable to lie and disavow responsibility for actions taken solely because you are a police officer - particularly when in an off-duty status and thus in most intelligent minds a citizen and not officially on patrol.  It sickens me to see how special status is granted to the rich, influencial, celebrated and otherwise extraordinary citizen time and again.  Justice is not blind in this case - just color blind as it cannot see the blue (or brown-tan-green whatever the uniform) aura.  We as the public must remain vigilent and aggressive in holding public servants accountible for their actions no matter what their job descritpion but especially sworn law enforcement officers.  I will donate to the legal fund but I would also prefer to have a fund that is used to prosecut the officer, the department and the prosecutor for obvious criminal malfeasance.  I do hope the local voters retaliate against a prosecutor who is blind to holding all parties accountible, a department who supports and participates in cover-ups and an off-duty officer who had been reckless and likely intoxicated and killed someone and injured others.

Oldmanball
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Posted: 31 July 2009 at 6:46pm | IP Logged
Drinking or not, Mr. Dinius did not cause the death of his passenger. That idiot driving the power boat was responsible. Sail has the right of way.
0655jmb1
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Posted: 31 July 2009 at 6:48pm | IP Logged
R I Popper,  Do you believe the operator of the sailboat was responsible for the deaths  and injuries of the people on his boat because he was DUI at the time?  That's what this case is all about.
cms4visa
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Posted: 31 July 2009 at 7:27pm | IP Logged
I feel badly for Mr. Dinius and have contributed to his fund twice and hope all other concerned boaters do the same.  It could have happened to any of us in the past and we would have appreciated help from others.
 
I agree with  "richardschurman" in that the Prosecutor, Sheriff and all sworn people involved should be held accountable for their dishonest actions.  Perdock should be arrested and prosecuted for causing this horrific event. 
 
Even if Dinius was stone sober, in a very slow sailboat there is nothing he could possibly had done to avoid showoff Perdock's speeding boat.  If the navigation lights were off or on makes no difference.  If Perdock was proceeding at a safe speed in the dark, maybe 10 MPH, he would have seen the sailboat in time and changed course or the sailboat could have maneuvered out of harms way. 
 
If Dinius was asleep in his car parked along the side of the road with the parking lights off and someone other than a deputy in Lake County hit him going 100 MPH you go to know that person would be arrested not Dinius.  Not much difference here. 
 
All Dinius did wrong was be honest and say his hand was on the tiller.  If Dinius gets off, and I pray he does, I hope he sues Perdock for everything he has or ever will have!
 
I wish I was on the jury!
Edited by cms4visa on 31 July 2009 at 7:27pm
must be stupid
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Lets see ; Daytime, Least manuverable craft has right of way. Night time; STUPID cop can hit anthing he wants. Guess the victims should feel lucky they weren"t in a row boat with just a flash light. Find a big anchor with a short rope and guess whose neck it should be on. I'll buy the anchor and the rope.

 

gfishin
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Dinius could have not avoided the accident sober or drunk,day or night, speed at night kills, it should have been open and shut....but money and politics talk.... let it be known, with no if's, and's or butts, Perdock is guilty. Let's stop the lawyers game and make a quick honest judgement here. Put your bleeding hearts aside and "focus on why it happened!', our legal system certainly is going with the flow anymore.....

Where is our common sense anymore!

Gfishin!

tcholloway
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ZERO tolerance for anyone operating a boat under the influence is the correct answer.  No exceptions. 

 

Yes, it appears that crooked cops have engaged in a cover-up, but the scapegoat (Dinius) used bad judgment and got burned.

 

I do not believe that his life should be ruined for his lack of judgement, in this case.  However, a DUI driver involved in a fatal car crash usually gets charged also.    

 

No handouts from me - he assumed the risk.

 

 

SwampNut
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Another example of our out of control police and government.  Things like this happen to people all the time and they usually don't have enough witnesses to prove the corruption.  We're only hearing about this case because it's boating-related.

As far as "right of way," there is no such thing.  Go ahead, look for it in the COLREGs.  Nobody on the water has a right of way.  There is a hierarchy of give-way and stand-on vessels, but nobody every has the right of way.  Learning the distinction is important for everyone on the water.

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aeronautic1
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One only has to look at the recent event in Hollywood Florida when a po-po ran into the rear of a woman's car and then four fellow officers falsified the police report to protect the officer who slammed into the car. The woman was arrested for DUI however the dash cam on the investigating/arresting officers car was on and filmed the officers doing a "Disney" with the arrest report. Once this was released to the press, the Chief of Police started an internal investigation, the officers involved put on administrative duties and the D.A. dropped all charges.

It is clear in this case that "The Code," that which fellow officers fabricated evidence, or in the case of Pedrock's blood sample, tampered with evidence to protect their fellow po-po. The D.A. is in colussion with them as well.

As a Coast Guard veteran and professional contract captain, the facts of the case are clear. Pedrock failed to maintain a proper watch, used excessive speed for the conditions at that time (dark of night/no moon), failed to yield right of way (sailboat under sail/overtaking). A good defense attorney would only have to ask Pedrock, "if you were operating your vessel, during the day, in the same manner; would you have been able to avoid the collission?"

A jury would never convict Dinius once all of the evidence and expert testimony are laid on the table. If I was a lawyer, I would pro bono this in a heartbeat. 

Edited by aeronautic1 on 31 July 2009 at 9:06pm
0655jmb1
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symantics, swampnut, symantics.
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Having been a licensed professional mariner for 46 years as well as working for 15 years as an expert witness in maritime litigation, I would like to make the following observation.

There is what is known as "Contributary negligence" in this case

1. The sailboat operator was under the influence of alcohol and operating at night without proper navigation lights. (Including a stern light)

2. The powerboat operator was proceeding a excessive speed for the conditions and being the overtaking vessel failed to yield right-of-way. (Bad seamanship)

Both sides of the issue have fault here and it is up to the court/jury to assess a percentage of blame.

RJSailor
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Problem exits not with the laws of the land or of the state but with the
uneducated personel of the police forces , to be honest they are little
more than bunch of low level IQ indivduals , given a gun and an
unresonable amount of power to supposedly protect the public, when
in reality , they are just drunk on power over the public.
johey
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Sailmaster:
Agreed on both points. The difference is:
The sail boat operator in open waters with very little wind has a very low potential for seriously damaging anything or any one, no matter what the alcohol level. The lights issue is contentious, but even if the light died after going out (see today's testimony for the stern light being on leaving the dock), but in any kind of waves the lights of a sailboat without the masthead tri-light are often not visible (pet gripe).

The power boat operator going 40+ mph has a very high potential for seriously damaging everything, no matter what the alcohol level. Looking at silhouettes to determine whether another boat is present is frankly ridiculous. Imagine a rowboat/canoe/kayak with a flashlight- at 40+mph there's not even a chance to turn on the flashlight with a powerboat coming at them at that speed - no matter what the alcohol level of the operator.

It seems like the sailboat should have had no one at the helm, as there was no wind anyway. But I'm sure the sheriff's department would have found someone to blame outside their department - maybe the manufactures of autohelms. Or wind gods - sorry, power motor gods.
prowlersfish
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Posted: 31 July 2009 at 10:00pm | IP Logged

RJSailor wrote:
Problem exits not with the laws of the land or of the state but with the
uneducated personel of the police forces , to be honest they are little
more than bunch of low level IQ indivduals , given a gun and an
unresonable amount of power to supposedly protect the public, when
in reality , they are just drunk on power over the public.  

There are good cops and bad I would say most are good .

to say they are a" bunch of low level IQ indivduals"  show your low IQ  if anything . Thats like saying all sail boaters are Low IQ  miss informed Jerks just becuse you are . Most are very good people that your could learn from ( sail boaters and Cops )

Paul
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In any maritime court in the World a simple but basic rule would apply,   
Any attorney worth his salt would look in to the maritime court rulings,
sailbat under sail regardless of particular circumstances has a right of
way over a motor boat unless motor boat is
engaged in comercial endevors , to simplify statues.
RI Popper
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Posted: 31 July 2009 at 10:13pm | IP Logged

0655jmb1 wrote:
R I Popper,  Do you believe the operator of the sailboat was responsible for the deaths  and injuries of the people on his boat because he was DUI at the time?  That's what this case is all about.  

 

Was the operator of the sail boat responsible?  Yes partially by putting people in harms way by operating under the influence and not using any lights.  That doesn't mean the other jerk was right. I hope the power boat driver has his hat handed too him in court and fired for being a completely irresponsible jerk. Why would any of us who use good judgement be put in harms way be either of them?  WE SHOULDN'T!  Let them both get some sense beaten into them.

RJSailor
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It is very unfortunate that we as public In the US are brainwashed to
react to police misconduct as always a fault of the citizen, we are after
all inocent untill proven guilty, it is the police that are there to serve us
not the other way around. If the public was more aware of their rights
the police would be less careless in their misbehavior.
prowlersfish
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Posted: 31 July 2009 at 10:29pm | IP Logged
RJ  you are so clueless its not funny ,
Paul
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It hurts if someone tells is how it is, the Cambrige debacle is the proof
, clueless and dumb, a loughing stock of the World.
prowlersfish
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Yes the cops made a mistake there , for sure . They should have never droped the charges !
Paul
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Yes, in the end it does go back to quick thinking, to say common
sense, a little of street smarts, not even high IQ but it is still to much to
ask of machines, limited to , say yes sir no sir, and not to be human
to other people, the motor Boat operator was DUI but he could get
away with it simply because he is above the law as a cop .
DocHoliday
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Posted: 31 July 2009 at 11:18pm | IP Logged
Totally agree with the earlier post on lighting. Marine running lights on boats, and navigation aids in general, assume we are all still sailing for the admiralty at 8 knots!

When running at night I sometimes put on my docking lights (the twin headlights), I think that is technically illegal but they work great at avoiding collisions. Even if you're going slow, the other guy might be going way too fast.
Edited by DocHoliday on 31 July 2009 at 11:19pm
41HUNTER4EVER
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A drunken Mr. Dinius operates a vessel without lights and resulting in death!  Why is Boat US disseminating a sympathetic eLine Extra to all on his behalf???  Sure, myopic purist sailors will blame the stinkpotter, but the real fault is a system which will only incarcerate Mr. Dinius for 3 or 4 years. 
foghorn47
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It's unfortunate that this forum has degenerated into a name-calling contest, with more heat than light. Clearly, the police investigation was flawed and appears to have been biased toward the police officer. The delay in testing his BAC, the failure to secure the wreckage and properly note the evidence, and the exclusion of evidence or witnesses that contradict the story of the power boat operator should give any jury reason for reasonable doubt about Mr. Dinius' guilt on the charges against him. This looks like a serious case of police malfeasance and of prosecutorial misconduct, the worst enemies of our justice system. Yes...Mr. Dinius should have been charged with operating a vessel while under the influence. But he did not hit another vessel, indeed fly right over it, did not violate a whole laundry list of maritime regulations, did not grossly violate the requirement to operate the boat at speeds appropriate to the conditions. And he did not kill someone. Superman couldn't have gotten out of the way. The cop should be facing charges of reckless operation, manslaughter, and perjury. Anyone else would be had they done what he did. This is a shameful abuse of power. One can only hope that the jury is paying attention, if the trial even goes forward.
catzmeow1158
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It is sad what happened in this instance. After reading all these post. I feel that the blame should be shared between Mr. Dinius and Mr. Perdock.
We know  the person in control of both boats are responsible for every persons  safety. Did these two men act responsible for the safety of the passengers? There was a loss of life and injuries.
 Mr. Dinius for having a BAC of .12 and Mr. Perdock operating a vessel in a unsafe  impaired manner at night. Both men did not operated thier vessels apropriately. So how do assign a percentage of blame? Who violated the most laws? How servere were the laws violated?
IMHO a 80% blame for Mr. Perdock and 20% blame for Mr. Dinius. I came to this conclusion based of the perceived submitted evidence. Of course anyone can change these percentages.

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I am a power boater and a sailor, both pursuits I was able to take up AFTER I quit drinking (27 years ago), and I truly believe I wouldn't be here today, much less 26.9 years ago, if I was still drinking.  I've read as much as I can get my hands on regarding this case and I am curious as to what the potentially inaccurate breathalizer read for Dinius' BAC after the crash.  In any event, I agree with foghorn47 that it was not Dinius that was reckless and it was not Dinius that caused this terrible death.  Speed kills, drinking and speed kills more, regardless of what you're driving.  With the testimony I've read to date, even the operating under the influence may get thrown out against Dinius ... and no charges pending against the cop?  This is all so very wrong and stinks to high heaven!  I'll donate with hopes that the feds come in and completely investigate the Lake County Sheriff's Department's handling of this case AFTER the Dinius verdict has been read.  I would have suggested the State of California but everyone knows they have no money.  An innocent women died here people.  Is no one going to pay?   

number9
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Life and laws are not always fair. DUI/BUI laws I believe are a good example.

Take a similar accident involving autos for example.
Driver A carefully driving alone but with a bac of .08 heading home after a meal with friends. Driver B recklessly driving with several passengers but stone sober.
Driver B runs a red light and hits driver A. A passenger in Driver B's auto is injured and later dies.
Initially Driver A will be charged with DUI regardless of fault. When the passenger dies the charges will be upgraded to vehicular homicide, again regardless of fault.

I don't believe it's fair the boat's operator was charged and don't like that Driver A would be either.

Unfortunately after reading the facts and understanding how unfair this situation is I must admit even to myself the law as written is being administered equally and fairly in this case. Except of course the other operator's questionable testing and now that the manslaughter charges have been dropped should not be an issue in the trail.

As for the brighter nav lights? Unless properly installed they can really affect the operators night vision.



boatingncst8fan
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This article sure has new posters crawling out of the woodwork...
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FishnDive
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The moral of the story is never get in an accident with a law enforcement officer.

The news story this week in Hollywood Florida is about a young lady that was charged with DUI involving an accident and property damage. The accident and property damage increases the penalty substantially.

It turns out the police forgot that the video and audio was running in the patrol car. You can hear them talking about how they were going to make sure she got the blame and not the officer who wasn't paying attention and rear ended her.

Four officers collaborating and risking their careers over a minor offense to protect a fellow officer. Would police officers collaborate to protect one of their own from manslaughter, who knows?

skyray
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prowlersfish wrote:

skyray wrote:
To some extent this plays out with Bill Maher's comment about the Harvard professor arrested in Cambridge.  You can bet your bottom dollar that if I had been driving the go-fast powerboat that Dinius would not have been charged with anything.  Why aren't they honest for a change and charge him with getting in the way of a rogue wreckless cop who was going too fast for conditions because in his opinion the rules don't apply to cops?  

 

But its ok to be drinking when driving a sail boat ????? BULL

No, Paul, it clearly is not OK.  But it pretty clearly had nothing to do with causation, and if anybody other than a senior cop had hit him then it is likely that he would not even have been tested.  In the accounts of the trial being discussed in the local newspaper, the officer in charge of the Sheriff's Department boat force was asked if he knew Rule Six, and he didn't.  Pretty revealing as to their attitude about boat operations.

The cop and dinius boat should be in Jail and if he was on a power boat he still would have been charged .

 

Likely.

mikey4241
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Several points---

1) The breathalyzer was reportedly out of calibration--this means that Mr. Dinius' BAC may not be accurate. If this is so, the BUI charge (and all the assumptions made, conclusions drawn and emotions spewing forth that go with it) is based upon faulty, or at least questionable, evidence.

2) Many posters are saying the sailboat did not have navigation lights in operation--this is a disputable statement, in that there are as many witnesses that say lights were functioning as there are that say lights were not functioning.

3)Swampy makes good point in his mentioning that CLOREGS72 do not give any boat/operator the "right-of-way". As he stated, the Regs provide a hierarchy and procedures for "give-way/stand-on" status between vessels crossing paths--nothing more.

4)It has also been touched upon that these same Regs provide for every operator to maintain a reasonable and prudent speed for the conditions at hand and to always maintain a proper lookout.

5)The rules also say that even the rules are suspended, if necessary, to avoid a collision--point being that every operator must do everything possible at all times to avert conflict.

The only thing that can be concluded with any certainty at this point in time is that somebody's gonna be in a lot of trouble!
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0655jmb1
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Since the burden of proof is on the prosecution, I can't imagine any other result than "Not Guilty" in this case.  I can't see one point in this case that the prosecution will be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt as required by law.

DUI - Faulty Equipment/Inconclusive at best

Sail vs. Power - Power must give way

Lights - Word against word

Deputy's Alcohol test - Inconclusive via "Chain of Evidence Rule"

The jury will be instructed on all of the above and I predict Dinius will prevail.  I also predict that Dinius will file civil a civil against the chief deputy and possibly the sheriff's department for unwarranted prosecution.  I am a retired 40+ year deputy/sheriff and think this whole thing reeks of "Good Ole Boy syndrome."  Good Luck Mr. Dinius although you probably won't need it.


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