Millionaire Polo Club Founder Guilty of DUI in Man’s Death
By the CNN Wire Staff
(CNN) — Florida millionaire John Goodman was found guilty Friday after being accused of driving drunk, hitting another vehicle and running it off the road into a canal, where its driver was later found dead in his submerged car.
Goodman, 48, was found guilty on the two counts he was charged with. The first was DUI manslaughter and failure to render aid. The second was vehicular homicide and failure to give information to authorities or aid.
The Palm Beach County jury reached its verdict after about 5 1/2 hours of deliberation, following closing arguments Thursday afternoon.
A sentencing hearing is set for April 30, with Goodman potentially facing 11 1/2 to 30 years in prison.
The incident occurred early the morning of February 12, 2010, when Goodman was driving his black Bentley convertible in Wellington, Florida, “at a high rate of speed while intoxicated,” according to a probable cause affidavit.
Goodman failed to halt at a stop sign, where the other driver — Scott Wilson — didn’t have a stop sign and had the right of way, the affidavit said. The two men’s vehicles collided, causing Wilson’s car to go over a bank and roll over in a canal.
“After the collision occurred, Goodman made no attempt to look for Wilson’s vehicle and fled the scene of the collision on foot,” according to the affidavit from the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office. “Goodman left the Bentley GTC at the scene … and left Scott Wilson to drown in the canal, belted in the driver seat of his vehicle.”
A pair of tests taken three hours later showed Goodman’s blood-alcohol content level was .177% and .178% — and, based on those findings, a state toxicologist extrapolated that he was closer to a .20% or .23% at the time of the crash, more than three times Florida’s legal limit.
Prosecutor Sherri Collins further argued that Goodman could have saved Wilson’s life had he gone after him after the crash rather than walk away.
“He called his friend, and she had to talk him into calling 911,” Collins said during closing arguments Thursday. “That is absolutely failure to render aid, that is absolutely failure to give information, that is absolutely not informing the authorities.
“… If the defendant had rendered aid, Scott Wilson would have lived.”
Goodman himself testified earlier in the trial, claiming he was “absolutely not” intoxicated when he left the second of two establishments he’d gone to that night. He blamed a malfunction with his vehicle for his failure to stop and the fact he hit Wilson’s car.
“I began to apply my brakes, and the car did not seem to be stopping as easily as I was used to,” he said on the stand. “I continued to apply the brakes, I slowed before the stop sign and … took my foot off the brake. And that’s the last thing I remember.”
His lawyer, Roy Black, argued that the blood-alcohol readings don’t jibe with eyewitness testimony, saying that people saw him have three drinks and not the 20 he would have had to have to result in such a high reading.
And Black contended the observations that Goodman’s reactions appeared slow after the crash, that he had trouble gauging where he was and that he seemed confused were “consistent with the symptoms of suffering a concussion.”
In addition to his role in the fatal crash and the subsequent trial, Goodman made headlines a few months ago when he legally adopted Heather Colby Hutchins — his “42-year-old girlfriend” — according to a court order issued in late January.
That court order was written by Dade County Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley in response to a motion filed by Wilson’s relatives. They are suing Goodman — as well as the International Polo Club Palm Beach, which he founded — for punitive damages tied to Wilson’s death in the crash.
The adoption of Hutchins made her eligible for money from a trust fund created for Goodman’s children. The court previously noted that any money from this trust fund “may not be considered a part of the net worth, or the financial resources, of Mr. Goodman for purposes of assessing punitive damages,” the order noted.
The judge, in his order, granted the plaintiffs’ motion to get more information on the adoption.
He also stated that Hutchins’ “interest in the children’s trust may be considered in connection with Defendant John Goodman’s financial resources.”