The conviction of billionaire John Goodman
I have followed the trial of John Goodman with great interest in recent days and today’s verdict was not surprising given his lack of recollection of the tragedy that he caused.
On the 12th February 2010, Goodman, who sold his family business, Goodman Manufacturing, for $1.43 billion in 2004, crashed his Bentley Continental GTC at speed into a Hyundai Sonata driven by a 23-year old engineering graduate named Scott Wilson at a stop sign at Lake Worth Road and 120th Avenue in Wellington, Florida. Wilson’s car was catapulted into a canal and he subsequently drowned.
Goodman, who also founded the International Polo Club Palm Beach and was a protégé of the $7 billion Ponzi-schemer Sir Allan Stanford, claimed: “I don’t know what happened,” whilst on the stand this week before adding that the car suddenly lurched forward at the intersection. He continued: “I began to apply my brakes, and the car did not seem to be stopping as easily as I was used to.”
Goodman, who stated that he drank two shots of tequila and two shots of vodka at The Players Club prior to the accident, then fled the scene leaving Wilson to drown belted in the driver seat of his vehicle. In court he argued that he did not know he’d hit another driver and headed to the “man cave” of a nearby barn where he downed yet more booze to “alleviate [his] pain.”
Next, Goodman went to a trailer park and woke a woman named Lisa Pembleton. Here, an hour after the accident, he called first his girlfriend-daughter Heather Laurso Hutchins (also known as Heather Colby), an assistant and then finally 911 at 1.55am at the instructions of Pembleton.
In defence, Roy Black, Goodman’s attorney, blamed the accident on a fault with his “out-of-control runaway monster” Bentley. Bentley’s spokesperson, Valentine O’Connor, said in response:
“We have complete confidence in our vehicles, and are prepared to demonstrate such confidence when appropriate.”
If indeed a fault were with the car, it would be the first Bentley in the United States to have experienced a “throttle-brake-computer” failure and plainly the jury didn’t believe such.
The trial attracted significant media interest not only because of Goodman’s wealth and status but also because of the witnesses called. Amongst them was the “David Beckham of polo,” Ignacio Figueras, who had been paid $120,000 to play on Goodman’s polo team. Figueras testified that he had not seen Goodman “impaired” that night when he had worked as a “celebrity bartender” at the White Horse Tavern but as he’d left the party early, his evidence plainly didn’t count for much.
The key argument against Goodman came from Prosecutor Sherri Collins who argued that Goodman could have saved Wilson’s life had he not walked away:
“He called his friend, and she had to talk him into calling 911… 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.”
Today, John Goodman was convicted of DUI manslaughter and vehicular homicide. Sentencing has been set for 30th April and it is expected that he could get up to 30 years in jail.
Of the verdict, State Attorney Peter Antonnacci commented:
“Scott Wilson was a young man with a bright future and his life was tragically cut short. I hope that Scott’s family now experiences some closure so that the healing process can go forward in this particularly tragic event.”
Lily Wilson, the mother of the victim, added:
“I know that it took a lot for them to come up with a conclusion and justice has been served… I’m always gonna miss my son… I will always cherish his memories. And now, coming from me and the rest of the family and his friends, it’s time for the healing process to begin.”
This case is indeed a tragedy for all involved. Scott Wilson lost his life because John Goodman did not attempt to save him but equally a man whom many describe as “generous” and “decent” is heading to the clink. Today was not a day when the Goodman family could say: “Thank goodness for Goodman.”
For more information on the International Polo Club Palm Beach, 3667 120th Avenue South, Wellington, Florida, FL 33414, go to: http://www.internationalpoloclub.com
For more information on The Players Club Restaurant, 13140 Southshore Blvd, Wellington, Florida, FL 33414, go to: http://playersclubrestaurant.com