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news 2012
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Media News 2012

Orlando Sentinel - December 18, 2012 / Polo mogul Goodman cleared to return to house arrest
By Marc Freeman, Sun Sentinel

John Goodman
John Goodman

John Goodman is going home with a new court-ordered ankle monitor in time for Christmas.

Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Jeffrey Colbath on Tuesday ordered the Wellington polo magnate to return to house arrest on a $7 million bond for the duration of Goodman's appeal of a DUI manslaughter conviction and 16-year prison sentence.

Colbath's ruling came at the end of a 3 1/2 hour court hearing featuring conflicting testimony and arguments over whether Goodman, 49, intentionally broke his GPS ankle bracelet in his home bathroom late on Oct. 10.

The judge said the Palm Beach County State Attorney's Office, on Tuesday and on Oct. 12 during the first part of the hearing, failed to prove Goodman tampered with the tracking device and should have his bond revoked.

The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office had accused Goodman of cracking it open with a handheld mirror that left blue paint from the mirror on the monitor.

But Goodman, who has been isolated in the Palm Beach County Jail since the incident, on Tuesday testified that the break was accidental and happened as he stepped out of his shower just after 7 p.m.

"It's not intentional," he said. "Absolutely not."

At the hearing, prosecutor Sherri Collins veered from the accusation by the Sheriff's Office that Goodman used a mirror to hack at the device. She said he intentionally broke it in a way that will remain a mystery.

"I don't think we're ever going to know the answer how he did it," Collins said, suggesting he could have used a vise. "There is no way it happened accidentally. These monitors just don't break open on their own."

Colbath said it wasn't clear how the monitor broke, nor was there any evidence Goodman had planned an escape from his mansion after being on house arrest since shortly after his May sentencing. The judge said Goodman had no motive to destroy the monitor and risk trading the comforts of home for a jail cell.

"Why on earth would he want to do that?" Colbath said. "There's no reason I could think of."

In March, a jury found Goodman guilty of driving drunk and causing a February 2010 crash that killed Scott Wilson, 23. At the intersection of 120th Avenue and Lake Worth Road in Wellington, Goodman's Bentley convertible rammed into Wilson's Hyundai and flipped it into a canal, where Wilson drowned.

Goodman walked away from the scene and called authorities hours later. He and his attorneys have asked the 4th District Court of Appeal in West Palm Beach to overturn his conviction and sentencing.

After Tuesday's hearing, Goodman was led back to jail in handcuffs and leg shackles while officials prepare for his return to house arrest. He will spend at least one more night in jail before going back to his estate, which covers almost 80 acres, is valued at $5.9 million and includes a house with 7,563 square feet of living space.

The heir to a Texas heating and air conditioning fortune and founder of International Polo Club Palm Beach, Goodman will be subjected again to strict conditions. He'll be limited to one hour a day of outdoor recreation and pay $2,000 a day for two deputies to guard him.

But Guy Fronstin, one of Goodman's attorneys, said his client was "extremely pleased that Judge Colbath recognized that there was absolutely no evidence to support the state's allegation he tampered with his ankle bracelet."

At the hearing, Fronstin argued the electronic monitor was affected by "normal everyday wear and tear."

Goodman, speaking in a calm voice on the witness stand, said it broke when it grazed against his shower.

But John Christopher Defant, a vice president with ankle monitor manufacturer 3M Electronic Monitoring, Inc., told the judge the device can't be broken by accident and that force was necessary. However, he said he couldn't determine how Goodman's monitor became damaged.

Both a state crime laboratory analyst and a private consultant working for the defense, testified that there was no evidence that a tool was used to break it. Another analyst said there was no evidence of paint from the mirror on the device.

Under questioning from Fronstin, Goodman said he was in a pleasant frame of mind before the incident and viewed it as just "another day."

"I'm under house arrest but I'm fine," he said, describing his day of holding business meetings by phone, having a dance lesson, and plans for dinner with his mother.

Goodman said his ankle monitor had occasionally been hit as he made normal movements or played tennis.

"It's just like wearing a watch," he said. "I try to be careful with it. But it becomes part of moving your body."

Goodman said he took the damaged monitor to a deputy after he got dressed following his shower and they examined it before calling for help.

Goodman said he was stunned when he was taken to jail more than three hours later by other deputies because he assumed they were only going to replace the device.

"I did not think it was a big deal at all," he recalled. "I said, 'I didn't tamper with anything.'"

The Palm Beach Post - December 18, 2012 / Judge sends John Goodman back on house arrest; denies motion to revoke $7M bond
By Daphne Duret

John Goodman
John Goodman

WEST PALM BEACH — Wellington polo mogul John Goodman is expected to be home from jail in time for Christmas after a judge ruled Tuesday that state prosecutors failed to prove that Goodman intentionally broke his house-arrest monitor in an October incident.

Prosecutors had asked that Circuit Judge Jeffrey Colbath revoke Goodman's $7 million appellate bond, and make him begin serving his 16-year sentence on his March conviction for DUI manslaughter in the February 2010 crash that killed 23-year-old Scott Wilson.

After hearing testimony Tuesday from deputies, experts and Goodman Colbath said he may never know how the International Polo Club founder's ankle monitor smashed open but said he felt strongly that Goodman had no intention of violating the strict terms of his release.

Goodman recounted how deputies allowed him an hour a day outside his sprawling Wellington estate for exercise — which he opted to use playing tennis on an average of six days a week.

On the day before deputies took him back to jail, Goodman said, he spent most of the day making calls and attending business conferences by phone. And in the afternoon, he had a 90-minute salsa lesson — before making a few more business calls and heading for the shower.

"What motivation does he have?" Colbath asked. "He's sitting fat and pretty while his appeal is going on. There's no evidence that there was a grand escape afoot.

"Why would he do it? There's no reason I can think of," the judge said before ruling at the end of a nearly four-hour hearing.

Tuesday's hearing was a continuation of an Oct. 12 hearing that came shortly after Palm Beach County Sheriff's deputies took Goodman back to jail — cutting short a five-month stint on house arrest, in which he also agreed to pay for two off-duty deputies to guard him around-the-clock as a condition of his release.

As has become typical for hearings in Goodman's highly publicized case, Tuesday's courtroom match was full of drama and pushed the proceeding well beyond the hour-and-a-half Colbath had scheduled.

Goodman's attorneys Guy Fronstin and Doug Duncan argued that there was evidence that deputies were the ones who pried open Goodman's ankle monitor after discovering a small crack; that Assistant State Attorney Sherri Collins kept one deputy who knew the truth off the stand; and that the marks on the device that authorities said showed Goodman tried to tamper with it turned out to be smudges from the paint on his tennis court — where he had fallen several times during his recreation time.

Goodman testified that he hit the monitor on a glass shower door accidentally one night and had no idea it would eventually earn him a trip to jail.

"I didn't think it was a big deal at all," said Goodman. "Everyone was calm. I just thought that they would tell me what to do."

Instead, Goodman said, he was handcuffed and left on a couch while deputies searched his house. Eventually, they took him to jail.

Goodman testified that the crack in the device had been relatively small, saying a sheriff's sergeant manually broke the device open before deputies took any photos of it.

Providing what would become the most controversial testimony of the hearing, Palm Beach County Sheriff's Deputy Bridgette Bott — one of two off-duty deputies working at Goodman's home — testified as a defense witness and corroborated Goodman's account.

Bott also recounted two exchanges with prosecutor Collins, the first of which was a day after the broken ankle monitor incident where Bott said Collins greeted her with the words, "I guess you're the lucky one."

Bott also said Collins kicked her out of the courtroom after a heated confrontation before the Oct. 12 hearing, keeping her from disclosing what she knew to the court after Bott said she heard news accounts of the incident and knew them to be false.

"I was upset," Bott testified. "I've never been kicked out of a courtroom before."

Collins later called Bott's supervisor, Sheriff's Detective Gabe Carino, to refute Bott's version of the events. But Goodman's defense team answered by calling local defense attorney and former prosecutor Douglas Rudman. Rudman, who was in the courtroom on Oct. 12 for an unrelated hearing, said he witnessed a confrontation between the prosecutor and deputy and later heard Bott tell another deputy that Collins had threatened to have Bott escorted from the courtroom if she didn't leave voluntarily.

Goodman's defense also called to the stand two witnesses from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. One concluded that paint found on Goodman's house arrest monitor came from paint on his tennis court, refuting earlier claims from law enforcement that the paint transfers came from a mirror Goodman allegedly used to break open his house arrest monitor. The other FDLE agent said she found no tool marks to indicate that anyone tried to pry open the monitor.

Bill Greene, a metrology expert and the vice mayor of Juno Beach, testified Tuesday that his Stuart company independently tested the monitor and also reached the conclusion that there were no tool marks.

An official from 3M, the manufacturers of tens of thousands of house arrest monitors worn around the country, testified that in his eight years at the company he's never seen a device broken as Goodman's had been.

In the end, however, Colbath said that wasn't enough to prove that Goodman had tampered with it.

"That's the judge's ruling, and we'll abide by it," Collins said afterwards.

Fronstin and Duncan said Goodman, who smiled at the judge's ruling, was relieved to be going back home.

Sun Sentinel - December 17, 2012 / Hearing to examine John Goodman ankle monitor break
By Marc Freeman

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Did John Goodman's electronic ankle monitor break accidentally or because of tampering? That's the key question to be decided at a high-stakes criminal court hearing Tuesday.

Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Jeffrey Colbath is expected to decide whether the Wellington polo executive can again leave the Palm Beach County Jail on bond pending his appeal of a DUI manslaughter conviction and prison sentence.

In March, a jury found Goodman, 49, guilty of driving drunk and causing a February 2010 crash that killed Scott Wilson, 23. In May, Colbath sentenced Goodman to 16 years in prison, but also allowed him to post a $7 million bond while his attorneys seek relief from the 4th District Court of Appeal in West Palm Beach.

While the appeal is ongoing, Goodman's house arrest privileges were taken away late in the evening of Oct. 10, when authorities responded to an alert that his bracelet became inoperable.

Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw and his deputies accused Goodman — heir to a Texas heating and air conditioning fortune and founder of International Polo Club Palm Beach in Wellington — of intentionally destroying the GPS monitoring device with a handheld mirror in one of his mansion's bathrooms.

Goodman, who was paying $2,000 a day for two deputies to guard him on the property, reported he accidentally hit the monitor on a shower door.

At a hearing Oct. 12, Assistant State Attorney Sherri Collins argued the break from the mirror appeared to be deliberate and asked the judge to permanently revoke Goodman's bond and start the clock on his prison sentence.

But Colbath granted a request from Goodman's defense attorneys to suspend the hearing, to allow time for court-recorded interviews with deputies and an independent laboratory in Stuart to inspect the broken ankle monitor.

Those tests were performed Dec. 3, with an intact device used for comparison. A state crime lab also inspected the damaged monitor. The results of these examinations will be discussed when the hearing resumes Tuesday.

Collins said the state will stick with its request for Goodman to remain behind bars because of the incident.

Guy Fronstin, one of the attorney's defending Goodman, said his client did not try to break the monitor and should return home to wait out his appeal.

The state Attorney General's office filed papers last week urging the appellate court to uphold the polo mogul's March conviction and subsequent sentencing. Among numerous arguments, the state contends Colbath was right in denying a new trial for Goodman despite juror misconduct: a drinking experiment by juror Dennis DeMartin.

After the trial, DeMartin, of Delray Beach , said he had three vodka drinks the night before the verdict in an effort to assess how impaired Goodman might have been during the crash. DeMartin later published a book that recounts the experiment.

The state also rejected Goodman's other reasons for the appeal, stating that Colbath: properly denied a motion for judgment of acquittal; did not violate Goodman's due process rights; did not err by limiting the cross-examination of a witness; and did not make mistakes in jury instructions. Also, the state dismissed Goodman's contention that a litany of other errors warrants a new trial.

USA Today - December 7, 2012 / Former NFL player David Boston gets six months in jail
AP

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Former NFL wide receiver David Boston has been sentenced to six months in jail and five years of probation for punching a woman last year.

His attorney, Guy Fronstin, confirmed that the 34-year-old Boston was sentenced Friday. He pleaded guilty to aggravated battery last month. Fronstin says his client has turned his life around and been fully committed to treatment since his arrest.

Authorities say Boston had been drinking at a Boca Raton home in November 2011 when he punched a woman twice in the head, leaving a wound requiring 10 stiches.

Boston played at Ohio State and went to the Pro Bowl with the Arizona Cardinals in 2001. He also played for San Diego and Miami before injuries and legal problems ended his NFL career.

The Palm Beach Post - November 19, 2012 / Judge agrees to delay Goodman bond revocation hearing until Dec. 18 in DUI manslaughter conviction
By Daphne Duret

WEST PALM BEACH — A judge today postponed the remainder of a hearing to determine whether to revoke Wellington polo mogul John Goodman's appellate bond for an incident where his house arrest monitor was smashed.

Goodman, convicted of DUI manslaughter and sentenced to 16 years in prison in the February 2010 death of 23-year-old Scott Wilson, has been back in jail since October. That was when the destruction of his ankle monitor ended several months he spent on house arrest while his lawyers are appealing his case.

Circuit Judge Jeffrey Colbath in October heard arguments from prosecutor Sherri Collins insisting that Goodman's $7 million appellate bond be revoked, and was supposed to hear Goodman's defense on Nov. 26.

But, citing scheduling conflicts, Goodman's attorneys on Monday asked that the hearing be delayed. Colbath agreed that he will now hear the case on Dec. 18.

South Florida Sun-Sentinel - November 5, 2012 / Ex-Dolphins WR pleads guilty to battery charge
By Marc Freeman

Former Miami Dolphins player David Boston may be facing prison time.

Boston, 34, appeared Monday in Palm Beach County Circuit Court and pleaded guilty to a charge of aggravated battery from a Nov. 30, 2011, incident involving a female friend at a home in Boca Raton.

Court records show Boston, during an alcohol-fueled confrontation, hit a woman above the left eyebrow, creating a wound requiring 10 stitches.

Circuit Judge Charles Burton scheduled Boston's sentencing for Dec. 7. Legal guidelines call for a prison term of at least 35 months, but the judge has some discretion for a lesser penalty.

Assistant State Attorney Christy Rogers said she will recommend the minimum jail sentence; prosecutors have agreed to cap the maximum sentence at 48 months.

"You understand there's no guarantees?" Burton asked Boston, prior to his acceptance of the plea just before a scheduled jury trial.

"Yes, sir," replied Boston, a former Ohio State standout who reached the Pro Bowl as a wide receiver for the Arizona Cardinals. He later played for the San Diego Chargers and Dolphins before injuries cut short his playing career.

Defense attorney Guy Fronstin told Burton the sentencing hearing will take two hours because Boston's parents and sister will testify, and his client is seeking entrance in a drug treatment program.

The Palm Beach Post - October 31, 2012 / Gov. Scott may suspend arrested Delray developer from panel that selects judges
By Daphne Duret

Florida Gov. Rick Scott's office is looking into whether to suspend Anthony Pugliese from an influential local panel that helps select judges in light of the Delray Beach developer's arrest last week on money laundering, fraud conspiracy and grand theft charges.

Pugliese, a Palm Beach County power broker and a hefty political campaign donor, and his business manager, Joseph Reamer, were arrested Friday. It is alleged they conned Subway founder Fred DeLuca out of more than $1.2 million by submitting fake invoices for work never performed on a 41,000-acre development planned in Yeehaw Junction, south of Orlando.

Florida's constitution requires someone acting as either a county or a state officer such as Pugliese — whom former Gov. Charlie Crist appointed to the 15th Circuit's powerful Judicial Nominating Commission — may be suspended upon the commission of felonies. Often, appointees are suspended at or around the time of their arrests.

Scott this year has suspended at least four state-appointed officers after their arrests for crimes ranging from grand theft to battery. A spokeswoman, Jackie Schutz, said Monday the office was aware of the allegations. On Tuesday, she added: "The Governor's office is looking into the matter at this time."

Probe led to charges

The charges against Pugliese, 65, come at the end of a State Attorney's Office investigation into claims arising from a $5 billion lawsuit Pugliese filed against DeLuca in 2009. In it, Pugliese accuses the sandwich mogul of freezing him out of the $140 million Destiny project.

Among other things, investigators say Pugliese submitted fake invoices from several companies he created in order to get DeLuca to pay up for work on the project. He then either funneled the money into his business accounts or paid personal bills directly from bank accounts for the fake corporations — which Reamer, 54, allegedly set up.

In a 2010 marathon deposition in the civil case, Pugliese admitted to creating the fake companies and invoices — but he said he did so to create a reserve fund to carry the project through in case DeLuca tried to back out.

Interim Palm Beach County State Attorney Peter Antonacci this week referred calls about Pugliese and Reamer to Chief Assistant State Attorney Paul Zacks, who said he could not comment on the specifics of the case except that the prosecution had been assigned to Assistant State Attorney Daniel Funk within the office's Public Integrity Unit.

Arrest reports don't say how long investigators had been looking into the alleged scheme before they arrested Pugliese and Reamer. Zacks said he wasn't sure when the investigation began but knew it started before former Palm Beach State Attorney Michael McAuliffe left office in March.

When reached for comment this week, neither Pugliese's attorney, Doug Duncan, nor Reamer's attorney, Guy Fronstin, addressed the facts alleged in the case. They said they were confident the men would be vindicated.

"Mr. Pugliese and Mr. Reamer maintain their innocence and will enter pleas of not guilty," Duncan and Fronstin wrote in a joint statement. "Mr. Pugliese and Mr. Reamer are looking forward to their day in court and are certain that when a jury hears the facts in this matter that they will be acquitted."

Even during the time prosecutors allege Pugliese was swindling DeLuca, he remained a presence on the local, state and national political scenes — donating tens of thousands of dollars to national parties and local candidates alike.

Campaign finance records show Pugliese donated to $500 McAuliffe's campaign in 2008 and gave the same in March to Dave Aronberg, the Democratic state attorney candidate.

Also in 2008, Pugliese donated $10,000 in soft money to Florida's Republican Party and made $15,400 in contributions to the Republican National Committee. Others receiving money from either Pugliese or his companies in 2008 included state Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and state House member Adam Hasner, according to campaign finance records.

Powerful friends

The extent of Pugliese's influence was great enough that when investigators started looking into the case against him, they encountered heavy hitters who came out to stand beside him. DeLuca's attorneys in a September filing in the lawsuit accused Pugliese of trying to intimidate DeLuca by sending a cadre of 12 lawyers to DeLuca's deposition in the case.

On the list was former state Attorney General Bob Butterworth — who was Antonacci's boss when he was a state prosecutor — and former Palm Beach State Attorney Barry Krischer.

Reached by phone Tuesday, Krischer responded the same way each time when asked whether he was ever an attorney for Pugliese, what his involvement was in the case and what his connection was with Pugliese.

"Talk to Jack Goldberger," Krischer repeated several times, referring to another attorney listed in DeLuca's September filing. Goldberger did not return a call for comment at his office late Tuesday. Neither did Butterworth, who is listed as "Of Counsel" for the Fort Lauderdale firm Fowler White Boggs P.A.

Krischer is also in private practice, but works as a volunteer for the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office. Sheriff's spokeswoman Teri Barbera said Tuesday that Sheriff Ric Bradshaw has no knowledge of any dealings Krischer may have had with Pugliese.

Richard Hutchinson, one of DeLuca's attorneys in the civil case, declined to comment on the criminal case, referring all questions to prosecutors.

"We have filed pleadings with the court and stand by those pleadings," Hutchinson said in an email. "We have no additional information to add at this time."

If Scott suspends Pugliese from the Judicial Nominating Commission, he will join at least one other high-profile Crist appointee later removed from a similar office. Scott Rothstein, the Fort Lauderdale attorney now serving 50 years in prison for running a $1.2 billion Ponzi scheme, was removed from his spot on a similar panel for the 4th District Court of Appeal — even before his arrest. Rothstein, whom Crist appointed to the JNC in 2008, was removed after he surrendered his license to practice law in light of the accusations of wronging.

The JNC in each of the state's 20 judicial circuits and six appellate districts is responsible for interviewing candidates for judge vacancies that require an appointment from the governor's office. Of the candidates they interview, the committee then sends a short list to the governor's office. The governor then chooses and appoints a judge from the list.

In Palm Beach County's 15th Judicial Circuit, six of the nine members of the JNC are attorneys. Pugliese is one of three non-attorney members.

Pugliese's and Reamer's criminal cases have been assigned to Circuit Judge Charles Burton. As of Tuesday, no hearings in the case had been set.

SUSPENDED PUBLIC OFFICIALS

Delray Beach developer Anthony Pugliese could join four other public officials Gov. Rick Scott has suspended this year if he is bumped from the 15th Circuit's Judicial Nominating Commission.

September: James Campbell, an Oskaloosa County commissioner charged with official misconduct. Investigators alleged that over several years, Campbell failed to report commissions he had received for work soliciting sponsors for the county's Boggy Bayou Mullet Festival. His largest take in one of the four years alleged was $4,500.

August: Alfred Junior Martin, vice chairman of the Madison County Board of County Commissioners, who was charged with grand theft and official misconduct. Martin allegedly bought himself a $21 meal at Golden Corral and a $15 meal at a Wingstop, both in Tallahassee, from an account for the Madison County Volunteer Firefighters that he was only supposed to use when on official business.

May: Fred Jones, a Malone town councilman charged with grand theft-motor vehicle and dealing in stolen property. Jones was suspended nearly two weeks after his arrest on charges connected with two allegedly stolen cars that were later sold for scrap.

January: Malcolm Thompson, the Osceola County clerk of court. Charged with battery and assault. Thompson was accused of assaulting an administrative assistant during a meeting at the clerk's office.

South Florida Sun-Sentinel - October 12, 2012 / Wellington polo mogul to stay in jail through Thanksgiving
By Ben Wolford and Ed Komenda

WEST PALM BEACH - John Goodman will spend Thanksgiving far from his luxurious Wellington estate and personal staff. Instead, he'll be behind bars as he awaits a new bond hearing.

A judge on Friday temporarily revoked Goodman's house arrest order after the millionaire polo executive apparently hacked at his tracking bracelet with a handheld mirror, Palm Beach County Sheriff's deputies said. He had been under constant surveillance at his home pending the appeal of his DUI-manslaughter conviction in the death of 23-year-old Scott Wilson in 2010.

Goodman's attorney, Guy Fronstin, said he wanted more time to examine the bracelet and interview witnesses from the Wednesday night incident. Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Jeffrey Colbath granted the request to postpone the bond hearing to 3:30 p.m. Nov. 26.

Meanwhile, Goodman, 48, will trade his $2,000-per-day guarded house arrest at his 80-acre estate for a $3-per-day prison cell.

Thanksgiving, for Goodman, "will be just like any other day in the Palm Beach County Jail," with three hot meals, a TV and magazines, as long as they're not too violent, said Teri Barbera, a Sheriff's Office spokeswoman.

At home, Goodman has stables, six ponds and apartments for his staff. In jail, "we have book cart program with novels he can select from," Barbera said.

On Wednesday evening, with two deputies stationed at his home, authorities said Goodman shut the door to his second-floor bathroom and took a shower.

Soon Detective Gabriel Carino, watching from outside, noticed the other deputy talking to Goodman inside, he said in testimony. The box on the ankle bracelet was cracked open, and the GPS monitoring device had sent signals to a command center in Tampa, which alerted the Sheriff's Office.

Goodman told the two deputies he hit the monitor on the shower door, according to Carino's testimony.

At a bond hearing Friday morning, Goodman walked into court, his hands and feet wrapped in chains and handcuffs. He immediately sat down next to Fronstin, who whispered into Goodman's ear, fingering through a stack of paperwork.

Fronstin then requested the Nov. 26 hearing, at which a judge is expected to decide whether to revoke Goodman's $7 million appellate bond or to let him return home. Prosecutors say he presents a flight risk.

In a statement, Fronstin backed Goodman's claim that the broken monitor was an accident.

"It is very common for individuals to inadvertently damage their GPS ankle bracelet," he said. "Our investigation will focus on proving that the damage to Mr. Goodman's bracelet was unintentional."

Sheriff Ric Bradshaw, however, said Goodman left blue paint marks on the device from slamming it with the mirror. And makers of the bracelet say accidental destruction is highly unlikely.

"We have 30,000 [tracking monitors] in use, and if it were easy for them to be removed or if they could accidentally fall off or be damaged, that would defeat the whole purpose of them," said Connie Thompson, a spokeswoman for 3M, which made the bracelet Goodman was wearing.

"For someone to accidentally have one come off, they would probably have to suffer severe trauma. They would probably have to lose a foot," she said. And for the box to be damaged, "you'd have to undergo some kind of severe blow."

In May, Goodman was sentenced to 16 years in prison for a crash in February 2010 that killed Wilson. A jury convicted him of hitting Wilson's Hyundai Sonata with his Bentley, flipping him into a Wellington canal and leaving the scene as Wilson drowned.

Goodman's attorneys filed an appeal in September questioning a juror's drinking experiment they say undermines the guilty verdict. Dennis DeMartin, 68, wrote a book about his experience on the jury and admitted to drinking three vodkas the night before the verdict to find out how drunk Goodman might have been.

An attorney for Wilson's mother, Lili Wilson, said Goodman's wealth has allowed him to avoid justice.

"He has been convicted of being responsible for the death of her son," said the attorney, Jack Scarola. "It is frustrating for Lili that he has been able to effectively delay the carrying out of his sentence."

Sgt. Walter Lawrence, head of Alternative Custody in the Sheriff's Office, said it's rare for a judge to release defendants back to house arrest after violating conditions of their bail.

On Friday, Sheriff's Deputy Manuel Castillo took the stand and testified that Goodman was well aware he would go back to jail if he tampered with the bracelet. On Oct. 4, he put a new device on Goodman's ankle in a routine change of the monitors.

As he strapped it to his leg, Castillo said he told Goodman: "It's to be left alone."

The Palm Beach Post - October 12, 2012 / Judge temporarily revokes Goodman's bond; he'll remain in jail for now
By Daphne Duret

WEST PALM BEACH - John Goodman will be behind bars at least through Thanksgiving, regardless of whether a judge finds he tried to break free this week from his house-arrest monitor, which deputies found cracked open and dangling from his ankle Wednesday.

Palm Beach County sheriff's deputies Friday told Circuit Judge Jeffrey Colbath there was no way the polo club founder's monitor could have been damaged accidentally, as he claimed. Goodman, who was free on a $7 million appellate bond while he fights his DUI manslaughter conviction in the 2010 death of Scott Wilson, has been at the Palm Beach County Jail since shortly after deputies determined his ankle bracelet was damaged.

Colbath could have revoked Goodman's bond permanently, which would have sent him to prison to begin serving the 16-year sentence Colbath gave him in May. Instead, the judge at the end of Friday's emergency hearing took Goodman off house arrest and remanded him to jail until Nov. 26 - the Monday after Thanksgiving - allowing defense attorney Roy Black and Goodman's legal team time to mount a case.

Goodman attorney Guy Fronstin told Colbath that Goodman's team - the same group that argued a malfunction in Goodman's Bentley caused the crash that killed Wilson - will hire an expert to determine whether his ankle monitor could have shattered on its own.

On Friday, however, Assistant State Attorney Sherri Collins did most of the legal arguing. She called to testify one of the two deputies assigned to a permanent detail at Goodman's Wellington estate as a condition of his bond. Sheriff's detective Gabe Carino said he was outside the home when he saw the other deputy talking to Goodman while looking down at the bracelet.

He said when he asked what was going on, Goodman said, "There's an issue with his ankle monitor and I saw it was cracked."

Carino said Goodman, 49, told him he had hit the monitor on the shower door. The other deputy notified court authorities, as their protocol requires, while Carino stayed with Goodman.

Carino said he tried to keep calm because Goodman's elderly mother and the mother's caregiver were at the home, which is at the 160-acre complex that houses International Polo Club, which Goodman founded and established as the home of world-renowned tournaments.

"I didn't want her to get too overly excited," Carino said of Goodman's mother.

Goodman's mother was one of several relatives present in March when a jury convicted him of DUI manslaughter with failure to render aid from a 2010 accident that killed Wilson, 23. He drowned after Goodman's car plowed into his Hyundai on Lake Worth Road and sent the car into a canal upside down.

As a condition of his release, Goodman was required to pay $2,000 a day for two off-duty deputies to watch him around the clock while he was confined to his home with the ankle bracelet after Colbath agreed to grant him the appellate bond.

On Friday, after Carino testified, Collins called Deputy Manuel Castillo, the man who put the device on Goodman's ankle. Castillo said he told Goodman to take good care of the device.

"It's not to be tampered with," Castillo said he told Goodman. "It's to be left alone."
"Did you tell him what would happen with it if he tampered with it?" Collins asked.
"I told him he would be returned into custody," Castillo replied.

Castillo told Colbath that although he supervises about 25 people on house arrest at a time, Goodman's episode this week marked the first time he had ever seen a device so damaged that he could see inside it.

Sgt. Walter Lawrence, who leads the sheriff's office In House Arrest program, later told Colbath it would take "purposeful, directed force" to inflict the kind of damage Goodman's monitor had.

Wilson's mother, Lili Wilson, attended Friday's hearing but left without comment. The family through their lawyers have said Goodman has failed to take responsibility for killing Wilson.

"Mr Goodman was afforded a tremendous opportunity by being able to go free while he pursued his appeal, and if he did anything to violate that wonderful privilege he was awarded, he should go to prison immediately," Wilson family attorney Jack Scarola said this week.

Boca Raton forensic psychologist William Weitz said there's a logical explanation if the damage to Goodman's monitor was intentional.

Weitz, who has never treated Goodman and is not associated with his case, says events such as the crash that killed Wilson and the subsequent scrutiny of Goodman's trial could have taken a tremendous psychological toll on Goodman, the heir to a Texas heating and air conditioning fortune. That stress could have made his house arrest difficult.

"The restriction to freedom can cause this type of response, especially for someone who is used to the liberties of someone of his means," Weitz said. "It's a large fall from the cliff, and for some people, it's difficult to deal with."

UPI.com - October 11, 2012 / Woman charged with $3M extortion

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla., Oct. 11 (UPI) - A Florida woman has been charged with threatening to sell letters from her mother's former employers to the news media unless she was paid off.

Camille Brown, 31, of Plantation was arrested after she allegedly negotiated a deal with a Florida Department of Law Enforcement agent posing as a representative of the Schaefer family, The Miami Herald reported. A judge set bail at $200,000 at a hearing Wednesday.

Brown's mother was a housekeeper for Rowland Schaefer, founder of Claire's Stores Inc., and his wife at their home in Hollywood. Brown allegedly approached Bonnie Schaefer, the couple's daughter, by email, saying she had letters written by her 89-year-old mother, Sylvia.

FDLE Agent James Born quoted from the email in a report: "Now Bonnie, how would you feel about the world knowing about the darker side of 'The Incredible Rowland Shafer'? Promptly respond with a show of commitment to protecting your family's name and the reputation of your father. Otherwise, the letters will go to the highest bidder -- CNN, Time, Forbes, etc., etc. Attached are samples of some of your mother's 50-plus letters for your convenience, they make for excellent reading."

In his report, Born said Brown told him at an initial meeting that she wanted "market value" for the letters. She then wrote $3 million on a piece of paper.

Guy Fronstin, Brown's lawyer, told the Herald in an email he expects additional information will "shed a very different light on the case."

The Palm Beach Post - October 10, 2012 / Woman nabbed in Boynton, accused of trying to extort $3 million from family of Claire's Stores founder

BOYNTON BEACH - A Plantation woman was arrested at a Boynton Beach hotel on Tuesday and faces charges that she tried to extort $3 million from a prominent South Florida family, according to a Florida Department of Law Enforcement probable-cause affidavit.

Camille Brown, 31, was booked into the Palm Beach County Jail on one count of extortion. She notified the Schaefer family that she had secrets on them that they wouldn't want exposed and demanded $3 million to keep quiet. Brown's mother is a former housekeeper of the parents of a family member who live in Hollywood, according to the affidavit.

Rowland Schaefer, 96, was the founder of Claire's Stores, which became one of the largest U.S. retailers of costume jewelry for teens. He turned the company over to his daughters, Bonnie and Marla Schaefer, after suffering a stroke in 2002. The company went private in 2007 after it was sold to the Apollo Management LP for $3.1 billion.

Brown's attorney, Guy Fronstin, responded to the allegations with a written statement Wednesday evening.

"Having met with Ms. Brown today, our firm intends to follow up on numerous issues with law enforcement that once revealed will shed a very different light on the allegations against Ms. Brown," Fronstin said.

According to investigators, Brown sent an email Sept. 25 to Bonnie Schaefer, a Boca Raton resident currently living in North Carolina, saying that she was in possession of personal correspondence from Bonnie Schaefer's mother, Sylvia.

The correspondences included information regarding alleged physical abuse, alcohol abuse, abortions and other issues, the complaint said. The PDFs of those letters were attached to the email.

"Promptly respond with a show of commitment to protecting your family's name and the reputation of your father. Otherwise, the letters will go to the highest bidder - CNN, Time, Forbes, etc., etc.," the email read. "Attached are samples of some of your mothers 50-plus letters for your convenience, they make for excellent reading."

With the help of law enforcement, Bonnie Schaefer responded to Brown and said a family representative will handle the situation.

An undercover officer contacted Brown and met with her Oct. 2 at the Hampton Inn on Gateway Boulevard.

Brown arrived in a green Toyota registered to her mother, Coleen Parkes, the former Schaefer housekeeper, the affidavit said.

The two began speaking about the deal and Brown said she wanted "fair market value" for the return of the letters and a pledge not to disclose the information.

She handed the undercover officer an index card with an amount of money written on it. The undercover officer gave Brown a document to sign saying she wouldn't disclose the information in exchange for the money.

Brown gave the officer another index card with her Bank of America account information on it, the affidavit says.

The two met again Tuesday at the Hampton Inn. The officer asked for some of the letters in exchange for the wire transfer. The two also signed a new contract saying the transaction was now complete.

Officers arrested Brown soon after as she was leaving the hotel, the complaint said.

The Miami Herald - October 10, 2012 / Details emerge in alleged plot to extort family of Claire's founder

The former housekeeper's daughter threatened to disgrace the family by spilling embarrassing secrets - unless they paid her $3 million.

Instead of counting money, Camille Brown, 31, is sitting in a jail cell, facing extortion charges.

Police say Brown attempted to blackmail a prominent Broward County family, saying she would release to the media more than 50 letters penned by the family matriarch and allegedly containing sensitive personal information.

Brown, of Plantation, made the threats in a Sept. 25 email to Bonnie Schaefer, daughter of Rowland Schaefer, founder Claire's Stores, Inc., the Pembroke Pines-based chain of jewelry and fashion accessory shops, according to a probable cause affidavit filed by Florida Department of Law Enforcement agent James O. Born.

Brown appeared before Palm Beach Circuit Judge Joseph Marx Wednesday morning for an arraignment hearing. She did not enter a plea.

Marx set Brown's bail at $200,000, and she remained in custody at Palm Beach County's main jail as of late Wednesday.

Guy Fronstin, Brown's defense attorney, suggested in an email to The Miami Herald that police may have acted inappropriately in arresting his client.

"Our firm intends to follow-up on numerous issues with law enforcement," Fronstin wrote, "that once revealed will shed a very different light on the allegations against her."

According to the police report, Brown first contacted Bonnie Schaefer via email, and identified herself as the daughter of Coleen Parkes, a recently released housekeeper for Rowland and Sylvia Schaefer, who live in Hollywood.

In the email, Brown stated that she was in possession of personal letters written by Sylvia Schaefer, the 89-year-old family matriarch, and she made accusations regarding personal family issues, Born wrote in the report.

"Now Bonnie, how would you feel about the world knowing about the darker side of 'The Incredible Rowland Shafer'?" the email reads.

Brown then threatened to release the letters to media and disgrace the family, the police report states.

The email, according to Born's report, continues: "Promptly respond with a show of commitment to protecting your family's name and the reputation of your father. Otherwise, the letters will go to the highest bidder - CNN, Time, Forbes, etc., etc. Attached are samples of some of your mother's 50-plus letters for your convenience, they make for excellent reading."

At Born's behest, Bonnie Schaefer replied to Brown's email and asked for a phone number where a family representative could contact her and handle the matter.

Brown provided a phone number that Born then matched with her name, according to the police report, and Brown's driver license listed the same address as Parkes', the former housekeeper for the Schaefers.

Born reported that he went undercover as the family representative, and arranged to meet Brown in the lobby of a Boynton Beach hotel twice in October to negotiate a settlement.

At the first meeting, on Oct. 2, Brown arrived driving a green Toyota registered to her mother, according to the police report.

She demanded 'fair market value' for return of the letters and a pledge not to disclose the information, Born wrote.

When Born asked how much money she wanted, Brown reportedly pulled a yellow index card from her purse with the phrase "3 million" written on it.

Born reported that he tried to negotiate a lower price, but Brown refused and started to leave.

Ultimately, the FDLE agent agreed to Brown's demand, and then produced a pre-written agreement stating that she would not disclose the information.

Born reported that he filled in the $3 million price on the agreement, and that Brown signed the contract and initialed the figure.

Brown also said she wanted the money wired to her account, and produced another yellow index card containing her bank account information, according to the report.

But that first meeting merely set the stage for a sting.

Born reported he arranged a second meeting with Brown for Tuesday at the same hotel, and that he recorded the meeting and stored the documents.

At the second meeting, Born asked Brown for some of Sylvia Schaefer's letters in return for the wire transfer, according to the report.

Once Brown produced the letters, Born reported, he asked her to sign a new contract saying that the transaction was complete.

As Brown left the hotel, she was arrested without incident.

Town & Country - June/July, 2012 / Too Much Horsepower
John Goodman
John Goodman

It was tawdry enough when International Polo Club founder John Goodman--a playboy with a penchant for partying--fatally crashed his Bentley into a 23-year-old's Hyundai. It became truly bizarre when Goodman, in an attempt to keep control of his fortune, adopted his own girlfriend. Could the best legal team money can buy save him from jail--and himself?

The Missing Hour I

The first reports of a terrifying crash early on a Friday morning in February 2010 peak season in Palm Beach County, right in the heart of the polo schedule invariably mentioned the same Palm Beachy detail: One of the cars involved was a Bentley. By itself, this wasn't much help to anyone, since at this stage in the headlong development of Wellington, Florida, From swampland to strawberry patch to bedroom community to self-styled "equestrian capital of the world," there are probably more Bentleys than alligators behind its privacy hedges.

But the fact that the Bentley was a convertible did limit speculation. Could it belong to Anne Slater famous for her cobalt-blue sunglasses and the Fifth Avenue apartment she'd recently sold to Matthew Bronfman for 6.7 million? She drove a lovely restored soft-top. Or was the owner Mark Bellissimo, the 1990 Harvard MBA now turning the property surrounding the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center west of the village into a redoubt of bridle paths and multimillion-dollar stables favored by the show-jumper progeny of billionaires? He drove a late-model GTC, in a black that matched his Mercedes and Range Rover. One problem there: Neither Slater nor Bellissimo) seemed likely to wind up in a high-speed collision around closing time. Slate, famous for inspiring the Duke of Windsor to play the bongos at one of the after-parties she threw for the El Morocco crowd,. was decades past her wee-hour prime. And Bellissimo, a father of four teenagers, wasn't the type to stay out past curfew on a school night.

A second wave of rumors added a significant detail: The owner of the Bentley convertible ran the local polo club. This. narrowed the pool to two: 63-year-old Glenn Straub, Wellington's leading landowner, who had bought the Palm Beach Polo Club out of receivership in 1993, or John Goodman, 46, the son of a Texas air-conditioning magnate and heir to his fortune, who had founded the International Polo Club, just half a mile north of the collision site, at Lake Worth Road and 120th Avenue South.

The other car in the crash was a 2006 Hyundai Sonata, but the first person to arrive on the scene, a teenage girl driving home from a late movie with a friend, never even saw it. Her 911 call at 1:01 a.m. mentioned only one car a Bentley with Texas tags, empty and totaled and still smoking on the shoulder of the road, near the edge of a canal. It was left to the second callers, two young men who scrambled down the banks of the canal minutes later, to report that there was a second an; upside down, just its wheels and rear bumper visible above the water.

Police, EMTs, and a team of rescue divers arrived within minutes; the divers, feeling through the wreckage, determined that the Sonata was empty. Records showed it belonged to a Scott Patrick Wilson. As a tow truck came to winch the car out of the canal, Wilson's father, notified of the accident, began cruising the nearby streets, looking for his missing son. Nearly an hour after the first 911 call, John Goodman showed up at the scene. A squad car had picked him up him a quarter of a mile down the road, after he too had called 911. He, it turned out, was the driver of the Bentley convertible, and his wrist was broken. The EMTs took him to the closest hospital.

After he left, Sister's Towing pulled the Sonata out of the canal, and it became clear that the rescue divers had been mistaken. Scott Wilson, a 23-year-old engineering graduate from the University of Central Florida, was still belted into his seat, alongside what the investigating officer described as "water plant life inside the vehicle." A second investigator recorded the remnants of Wilson's last outfit: a striped polo shirt, khaki shorts, one brown sock. He had $518 in his pockets, money earned dealing poker while he looked for work in engineering. According to autopsy reports completed that morning, the blunt trauma from the crash--lacerations, abrasions, and what the coroner called "dicing" along the left arm from broken glass--had not proved fatal, but the silt in Wilson's lungs and airways and sinus passages had. The cause of death was drowning.

Wilson, who had moved to Wellington in eighth grade, had reached the final stretch of the three-hour drive from Orlando, where he had lived and worked since his graduation the year before. It was his sister Kristi's 19th birthday that weekend, and he was coming home early to spend some time with high school buddies. According to their accounts, Wilson was something of a joker, a tinkerer, a night owl--he had built his own hovercraft in college and liked to rouse his friends to play basketball in the middle of the night. The autopsy confirmed the testimony of friends, that he never drank alcohol and always made himself the designated driver; the only substances revealed in his blood draw were metabolites of caffeine, in an amount consistent with the presence of the Dunkin' Donuts coffee cup preserved in the Hyundai's cup holder.

Goodman had come to the area nearly 20 years earlier. He also owns a home in the River Oaks section of Houston and an 1,800-acre polo farm 30 miles west of there. But in 2004, soon after his family sold Goodman Manufacturing, the country's number two air-conditioner company, for $1.4 billion, Goodman decided to concentrate on creating a showcase for polo at its most competitive and launched the International Polo Club. He began improving his 120 acres in Wellington, adding a clubhouse, a pool, cabanas, and a croquet court. He maintained his eight polo fields (each one is regulation 10 acres) with the fanaticism of a head greens keeper at Augusta. A high-profile polo club is hardly a charity, but it sure didn't make Goodman any money. Still, it had its rewards. As a former lacrosse player and a lifelong horse rider, he played the game himself, winning the 2004 U.S. Open as the patron of the Isla Carroll team, which he had named after his wife at the time, Exxon heiress Isla Carroll Reckling (who goes by Carroll).

Goodman's criminal trial for DUI manslaughter/failure to render aid and vehicular homicide/failure to render aid - double-barreled charges that carried a maximum sentence of 30 years - wouldn't get underway until two years after the accident. (A related civil suit was settled on the eve of the trial for $46 million.) But the struggle between the prosecution and defense was already in full swing by 3:33 a.m., when the lead investigator from the Palm Beach Sheriff's Office, Troy Snelgrove, arrived at the Wellington Regional Medical Center. Goldman's older brother, Greg, in town from Lexington, Kentucky, to follow the progress of his Mt. Brilliant polo team in the Whitney Cup, was at Goodman's bedside, accompanied by a lawyer. A hospital nurse, at Snelgrove's request and over the lawyer's initial objection, performed a blood draw at 3:59. The Texan's blood alcohol level was .177, more than twice the legal limit, some three hours after the crash.

His blood also contained traces of hydrocodone - the opioid commonly known as Vicodin - at prescription levels. These readings surprised no one. Even close friends in Wellington tended to preface their enthusiasm for Goodman with coded allusions to larger issues, from the innocuous ("He's just a big kid") to the rhetorical ("Has he been known to drink a little more than he should? Does he sometimes make use of painkillers from a bag? Is he his own worst enemy?"). But one point nearly everyone agreed on: It wasn't the drinking that was out of character; it was the driving. Goodman, a solicitous host, was famous for hiring drivers to escort guests safely from parties and charity dinners at his home; their cars would appear the next morning parked in their own driveways. But he hadn't followed his own rule that night. With his driver off for the evening to pick up a daughter in Fort Lauderdale, Goodman had to manage the Bentley on his own.

Later that morning, Goodman's 42-year-old girlfriend, Heather Colby, flew in from Atlanta and went immediately to a Miami hotel, where Goodman had already been billeted, within walking distance of the offices of Roy Black, the criminal defense lawyer who had won an acquittal for William Kennedy Smith on a 1991 rape charge. Black had already contacted an expert in traffic accident reconstruction, and by Monday morning the man was examining impact gouges, oil slicks, and tire marks at the scene. Goodman and his lawyers toured the area too, attempting to account for his whereabouts during the long hour between the crash at approximately 12:56 and his call to 911.

The Runaway Monster II

Black immediately faced some daunting challenges with Goodman. The story had instantly made local headlines, with many playing up the angle of an out-of-control scion of privilege headed for a comeuppance on a biblical scale. The juiciest stuff focused on Goodman's activities in Wellington that Thursday evening in the hours leading up to the crash, as he moved from a "celebrity bartender" charity event at the White Horse Tavern to Ladies Night at the Players Club, where he immediately ordered "10 shots of your best tequila" (Espolon Silver, as it turned out) for a gaggle of polo players whose bar bills, in turn, included charges for Irish Car Bombs (Guinness and Baileys, with a shot of Jameson's dropped in, boilermaker-style) and Mind Erasers (vodka, soda, and Kahlua, drunk rapidly through a straw).

Then the polo impresario withdrew to a spot across the barroom for a tete-a-tete with Stacey Shore, a recently accredited yoga teacher. The two talked intensely and kissed, once or many times, and just when it seemed the evening was winding down, Goodman tried to reignite it. "Let's go get some cocaine," she recalled him saying. The impulse was not an isolated one. In a 2009 divorce filing, Goodman's ex, Carroll Reckling, claimed that she feared for her children's safety "because of the history of substance abuse."

The prosecution had its own potential media problem. Ellen Roberts, the lead prosecutor and Florida's chief expert on traffic homicide cases, was wary of the victim's mother, Lili Wilson. In their first meeting, Lili whispered in Robert's ear, "Did you get a copy of the videotape?" When Roberts showed no signs of comprehension, Lili persisted. "The videotape. From the satellite. The CIA satellite that secretly videotaped the crash." Lili also demonstrated an appetite for tearful impromptu press conferences in which she complained about the delays in the case.

Still, the Goodman case didn't break into national news until February 2012, just weeks before the start of the trial, when the Wilsons' attorneys uncovered an odd maneuver. Several months earlier, Goodman had quietly adopted Heather Colby. His lawyers tried to sell the financial savvy behind the move: Goodman had lost confidence in the management company in charge of the irrevocable trust, estimated to be worth $400 million, he had set up for his teenage children, and naming someone close to him and of legal age as a beneficiary would give him a voice in its administration. Colby, as a child, would immediately have access to as much as $133 million in cash (depending upon the current value of the trust), a far more useful form of wealth for a prisoner than real estate. Goodman's ex-wife was challenging the move in court, and the Wilsons' legal team in the civil suit considered it a blatant attempt to manipulate assets in anticipation of their damage claims. Polo fans in Wellington, however, believed that the adoption meant Goodman now had access to enough ready cash to continue subsidizing high-goal polo, even from a jail cell.

But most observers weren't titillated by the estate planning implications. They saw sexual perversion. Commentators on Good Morning America discussed local incest laws. But since Florida defined incest as an act between blood relations, Goodman was safe on that score. (The altered relationship did not ten seem to prohibit marriage, or any resulting conjugal visits, should Goodman wind up in jail.) The judge ruling on pretrial motions called the adoption "surreal," saying it took the court into a legal twilight zone.

The public furor helped in one regard, It gave support to Roy Black's petitions for a change of venue. Although that motion was repeatedly denied, the presiding judge on the criminal case, Jeffrey Colbath, did allow for a very elaborate jury selection process, with individual interviews designed to screen out candidates who, based on their exposure to the media, had already made up their minds about the case. The jury interviews allowed lawyers on both sides to test elements of their case and to begin, if not seducing the jury, at least winning it over. Black, who married a juror from the William Kennedy Smith case (she currently appears on Bravo as one of the Real Housewifes of Miami), began every interview with a woman by asking, for example, "Is that Miss or Mrs. Citamer?" with a courtly I've-got-all-the-time-in-the-world-for-you-smile. The assistant state's attorney, Sheri Collins, a law citation wizard who favored dark pantsuits, often undid the buttons on her peak-lapeled jacked to reveal that day's choice of form-fitting camisole. Once the individual questioning had been completed and the standard collective void dire commenced, Collins began establishing a bantering rapport ("Mr. Kingman, you've had four wives. You probably can tell when someone's lying") that she would easily slip back into later in the case.

The two sides wanted different things in the six-member jury. The prosecution wanted mothers and veterans and nurses, people with little sympathy for a "moment of weakness" defense. The defense seemed to want a combination of engineering background (for all the expert testimony they knew was coming), sense of humor, and fondness for drink. It soon became apparent that they viewed having had at least one concussion, or an incident of temporary amnesia, as a plus.

Each side used the process to covertly lay the groundwork for its case. Collins pointed out that the accident involved a Bentley, an expensive car. She then asked if there was "anyone who feels that the law applies differently to someone who has money?" It was a roiling and disingenuous question that seemed designed to stimulate the sense of class difference, but it was hard for the defense to object to a subtext.

But the prosecution did object strenuously when Black began floating test balloons during his portion of the questioning, asking a nurse if it was always apparent when someone had suffered a head injury, or if anyone found it ridiculous to drink alcohol to relieve pain, or if atone in the front row was familiar with the concept of sudden acceleration. The judge warned him about conditioning the jury, and when Black returned to questioning he said, "The question is being withdrawn. As you can tell, I don't always have an easy time with this, and I apologize to all of you." Black is tall and thin, and he moves with a lanky deliberation. As he speaks, his head sways ever so slightly on his long neck like an anaconda, and when he listens he maintains a mask of open-mouthed delight. After the apology, he went right back to his questions. "How many of you believe that after a car accident somebody might call a loved one instead of 911?"

"Objection!"

Despite all this wrangling, when it came time to actually settle on a jury, the two sides came to an agreement fairly quickly. They chose two construction managers, one of whom had been involved in a battery case - as the batterer; an electrician; a retired high school biology teacher, a teetotaler who had suffered a concussion and treated many more as a coach; a divorced retiree who worked part-time as a handyman at a funeral home and would later bring in homemade meatball heroes and eggplant park for his fellow jurors; and only one woman, whose work involved clearing canals of exotic plants. She too had been hit broadside in a car. "T-boned," she called it, using the term of art from demolition derby.

"And what was that moment like?" Collins asked. "A lot of swearing," the woman said.

Judgement Calls III

The opening statements, on March 13, 2012, at the Palm Beach County Courthouse, an 11-story building that looks a little like the Luxor casino, outlined the cases that the two sides hopes to make over the course of the trial. Ellen Roberts handled the duties for the state, offering what she called a "road map" of the pertinent events as the chief of traffic homicide. Roberts favors short, direct sentences, which she delivers with the punch of Mickey Spillane: "He moved to table three and got cozy with Stacey Shore," or "He blows that stop and pushed that little Hyundai into the canal." In court she comes across as loud and solid and likable, a fun-lovin', gun-totin', stand-your-ground grandma, but she is just as accomplished, if sparing, in her use of sarcasm and disdain. It's easy to imagine one of Robert's bitterer turns of phrase ringing in your ears for a long, long time - say, 11-and-a-half to 30 years, Goodman's potential sentence. "He blew through a stop sign at 63 miles per hour, hit Scott Wilson, pushed him through the dirt, turned his car upside down, and Scott Patrick Wilson died." In summation Roberts flicked a hand in the defendant's direction, as if shooing a fly. "And what did he do? He walked away."

The strategy felt as sharp as Occam's Razor; the state confidently presented the simplest explanation of events - that Goodman had gotten drunk, wrecked his Bentley, and freaked out - as the account most likely to be true. Black's opening offered a stark contrast. "Imagine, if you will," he began fancifully, "you're standing at the intersection of Lake Worth Road and 120th Avenue at 12:45 a.m." The principal argument, the Bentley Defense, seemed to be an upper-class version of the Twinkie Defense, the improbable strategy made famous in the trial of Dan White for the assassinations of San Francisco mayor George Moscone and supervisor Harvey Milk, in 1978. It was based on the premise that one of the world's most expensive cars, "a computer on wheels," as Black put it, had unexpectedly malfunctioned at that precise intersection, whereupon, "unbeknownst to Mr. Goodman," the throttle suddenly would not close as the car surged forward.

There were many dependent clauses to this audacious defense, and Blacked lined them up carefully. Goodman, at the time of the accident, was in fact "not intoxicated, not impaired, not drunk." He had suffered a Grade III concussion in the crash. In the resulting fog of semi-consciousness he had wandered down the road and blundered upon a "man cave" over the nearby stables of one of his own polo players, a "man cave" with no phone but plenty to drink. In said "man cave" (a phrase that recurred in testimony throughout the proceedings seemingly without embarrassment), Goodman had encountered a bottle of an unspecified liquor, from which in the next 15 minutes he proceeded to "swig" approximately half a fifth's worth, an amount large enough to relieve his immediate pain and to account for the .177 blood alcohol level. He then hopped the fence of a nearby farm and let himself into the trailer of a resident farm manager at 1:30 a.m. and asked to use her phone, which he eventually did, calling, in a sequence that demonstrated either understandable confusion or a felonious lack of remorse, his girlfriend first. He asked her to get in touch with Carlos, his stable manager and manservant. Finally, and only then, did Goodman dial 911.

It was quite a mouthful. After Black's opening, Roberts walked to the back of the courtroom to confer with the Wilsons' legal team from the civil suit. "He's got nothing," she ways in a stage whisper. "Hocus-pocus," the lawyer agreed. Beside me on the back-row media bench, a lawyer covering the trial for Palm Beach TV used the technical term that criminal defense attorneys apply to this sort of argument: "the cluster-fuck defense."

But, surprisingly, once the state began to call its witnesses, Black and his lieutenants started to piece together a series of minor victories under cross-examination, planting niggling doubts or questioning the credibility of key prosecution points. He got the first 911 caller, a tan and dark-haired beach beauty who had worked as an usher at Sunday polo matches at the IPC, to admit that she, like Goodman, never saw the Hyundai in the canal and thought that the crash was a hit-and-run. He got the bartender at the Players Club, a mother of a seven-year-old who was in the final stages of divorce proceedings to reveal a pattern of intimidating private interviews and state-led depositions that cast Roberts as a bully with a band of deputized thugs. By day two Goodman, up to then a shuffling, silent, and petulant presence slumped at the end of the defense table, had a snap in his step. It was starting to look as if he was getting his money's worth.

Then Lisa Pembleton, the farm manager who lived next door to the man cave, took the stand. It was apparent right away that she was a breed apart - plain, even severe, with the hawkish and distrustful eyes of a settler. It was her trailer that Goodman had barged into at 1:30 a.m., hoping to borrow a phone. The encounter was a clash of two worlds. She was an isolated Christian blogger who never drank, he a wealthy, barely verbal bon vivant. He had founded the country's premiere polo club and owned a string of ponies that he stabled on his vast property less than a mile to the north. She was an unpaid apprentice, trading work as a groom and farm manager for a bunk in a truck and dressage lessons.

Wellington calls itself the equestrian capital of the world, but really it's three distinct worlds, all orbiting the horse: polo, show jumping, and dressage. They don't often mix, mostly because horse people are fanatical and prefer the company of those who share their obsessions. Show jumping is the most famous, providing marriageable rich girls an outdoorsy alternative to debutante balls. Dressage is a solitary discipline dominated by rich older women and their finicky male consorts. Polo is a high-speed hetero contact sport perfect for billionaire amateurs and their hired bands of ex-hocky players and Argentine smoothies. An example of how separate the worlds are: When John Goodman, who is to polo roughly what George Steinbrenner was to baseball, showed up at the foot of Lisa Pembleton's bed, she had no idea who he was.

In Black's Law, a book Roy Black wrote about four of his signature cases, he urges lawyers to "think of cross-examination as a series of statements by the lawyer, only occasionally interrupted by a yes from the witness." He usually followed his own precept, establishing strong rhythms that often led to memorable payoffs. But he got nowhere with Lisa Pembleton. She took prayerful pauses before delivering single word answers. After a question, she's sometimes remain immobile, nearly catatonic; the effect was both weird and mesmerizing. In dressage, the rider puts the horse through a series of balletic paces, "fancy footwork," as Pembleton called it on the stand, ideally performed with no visible urging from the rider. Pembleton seemed to be doing the same thing with Black and even Roberts: They were moving to her timetable.

"Did he seem normal to you?"
The long pause. The judge, jury, court reporter, family of the victim, friends of the defendant and his security detail, all sat on the edges of their seats. "Not as I would view a normal person."

"Have you every seen anyone drunk?"
"I don't hang out with those kind of people."
According to Pembleton, Goodman had hemmed and hawed about calling 911. He asked if he seemed okay, admitted that he'd "effed up," as she put it. He wondered if she could tell that he's had a few. He wondered if he should call his lawyer. It wasn't that he was caught in a Hamlet-like moment of vacillation. It seemed that he simply had every expectation that in a crisis somebody would come to his rescue, his girlfriend, his manservant, his lawyer, his squadron of polo players, somebody.

Experts Disagree IV

Polo recovered some of its prestige a few days later, when the defense called Nacho Figueras to the stand. There had been a few days of expert testimony, about the conservation of linear momentum and retrograde extrapolation of blood alcohol content, which had dampened the overall carnivalesque mood. But as soon as Figueras, the 124th-ranked polo player in the world - but one of the top five models for Polo Ralph Lauren - arrived in his pinstripe Ralph Lauren Black Label suit and raised his right hand, the ABC producer to my right, who attended the proceedings in Hermes and Chanel and Christian Louboutin heels, called out, "Hello, lover!" an involuntary response that seemed to be shared by every woman in the room.

"I'm a polo player," he said, in introduction. "I am a polo player who plays around the world, yes." And one of the places he played was here in Wellington, on Goodman's team. He testified that he had been a celebrity bartender that night, and he distinctly remembered that he had not served a drop of alcohol to his friend, Mr. Goodman. "I remember who I didn't serve because it was important," he said dismissively when Roberts cross-examined him. His nostrils flared, his voice deepened, and his feathery '70s-style hairdo shook in indignation. Roberts looked foolish trying to confuse him by drawing out inconsistencies in minor details, the "timings," as he put it. "What happened that day was a tragic thing," Figueras said with seductive Latin certainty. "It wasn't just one more detail, like, you know, if we would have been to say, 'Oh, I sat to dinner at 9:45, 9:38.' But the fact that if I had served or not a drink to Mr. Goodman that night was the real thing. So it's something I remember very well."

There was a lot of speculation in press row about how much Black charged to take on a case like this. Presumably the cost included some nonlegal necessities for the client: security, to guarantee that the defendant lived up to the terms of his bond; detox and rehab, ditto; and general spa treatments, weight loss, haircuts, to make the defendant look slim, handsome, humble. Estimates ranged from $1 million to $4 million. Prosecutor Roberts, overhearing one bout of his guesswork, said, 'A hundred times what I make in a year, I know that."

But if there was one lesson to learn from the Goodman case, it was that money offered no advantage in the battle of the experts. The hired rocket scientists and brain surgeons (at $7,500 or $9,000 a day, pricey per diems established by the state's attorneys at the end of every cross-examination) were simply no match for the state's team. Part of this was practice. The Palm Beach Sheriff's Office was understaffed, and investigators worked on a lot of DUIs. But some of it was passion. Troy Snelgrove was all cop, a big man who seemed to prefer collars a size too small so that his head (egg-shaped, squared by a bush cut) appeared ready to pop, but on the stand he sounded deeply geek. Nothing was more convincing that the 3-D animation he made of the crash, which showed the entire sequence of the collision, without sound, the speeds established by plugging known values into standard vector-sum-analysis equations. (The results showed, according to Snelgrove, that Wilson was going 44 mph in a 3,600-pound car, Goodman 63 in one that weighed 5,600). Lili Watson, who had begun shaking with tears during an earlier replay of Goodman's call to 911 ("I did not, you know, see another car when I, um, pulled out"), had moved on to silent, wracking sobs in the back row as her son's car progressed, as Snelgrove put it, "from the point of impact to the area of Mr. Wilson's final rest."

The point of rest was just at the edge of a canal. In the video, the car slowed to a stop on the sandy shoulder and hung there. It teetered, like a stagecoach in a John Ford movie, before it's weight yielded to gravity and it somersaulted, driver's side first, into the canal.

The rebuttal witness Black called - a forensic engineer from Rimkus Consulting Group, a Houston-based consortium that provides expert witnesses for cases throughout the country - seemed distracted by minutiae, and he had none of Snelgrove's macabre poetry (at one point Snelgrove said the Hyundai, impaled by the impact, "danced on the grille of the Bentley"). He seemed to circle around his points and failed to deliver the sort o easy takeaway that jurors could quote in their deliberations. (He was paid somewhere in the vicinity of $25,000 for his work.) The NASA engineer, explaining exactly why he thought the Bentley had malfunctioned, fared no better. (The VW Group, which owns Bentley Motors, dispatched its own rebuttal expert who made mincemeat of the stuck-throttle and surging-monster theory, explaining that in such a situation the Bentley immediately cuts speed and goes into 'limp home mode.") Whatever advantage the defense had built up in its strenuous cross-examination of prosecution witnesses had evaporated. It was clear that the Goodman team had to call a Hail Mary.

The Gamble V

There was a gasp the next day when the defense called John Goodman himself to the stand. No one, it seemed, had expected to hear directly from the "driver of Vehicle 1." The polo magnate mumbled; he started sentences and then abandoned the thought, starting over from another idea. One point he was clear about: He had rushed past his own property that night because he wanted to get a Frosty shake at a Wendy's farther down Lake Worth Road before it closed. On the stand, after two years of regular blood draws that had proved that he had remained drug- and alcohol-free while he was out on bond, he sounded less coherent than he did on the tape of the 911 call, when he was either drunk or concussed or both. He dropped key exculpatory phrases into his answers, then seemed embarrassed by the big words. "I was in excruciating pain. I was in a lot of pain," he said, in answer to a question about his time in the man cave. "I grabbed a bottle, thinking it would alleviate my pain - lift my pain a little." But he scored a few points, establishing his potential concussion by saying simply, "I took my foot off the brakes, and that's the last thing I remember." In an odd way, the mumble-mouth performance worked in his favor. he came off as sincere - confused, tortured, misguided, and overmatched, sure, but incapable of elaborate perjury.

Black and Roberts presented their closing arguments on March 22, with Roberts getting the final crack at the jury. Black pointed out that the state had not provided any witnesses from before the crash who saw Goodman drinking anywhere near the extraordinary amount that would account for his elevated blood alcohol level. He suggested that in his pain Goodman had done something straight out of the Old West: He had taken a bottle to drown the pain. Roberts was more understated, first conceding that these cases are the hardest to try. "John Goodman is not a bad man. He did not set out to hurt anybody, or ruin Scott Wilson's parents' lives," she said. "I'm not telling you he intended to hurt Scott. He did not. And I feel confident that if he could live that night over again, he would certainly life it over differently." But after that gesture of kindness, she started to tear apart the key elements of the defense, the concussion, the pain, the man cave. She explained the call to Carlos, his manservant, saying, "I think he had had people taking care of him a little too long." She pointed to the "zigzagged" path of his boot prints in the sugar sand after the accident. "Does that look like the way a sober person would walk? Hmm?" In five and a half hours the jury found him guilty of the most serious charge available to them: DUI manslaughter and vehicular homicide, and first-degree felony failure to render aid.

After the trial, but before the verdict, Roberts turned to Harriet Goodman, John's mother, who arrived every morning in a wheelchair and for that reason had been sitting behind the prosecution table throughout. Roberts put a hand on the shoulder of Goodman's mother, forlorn and white-haired and wearing comfy stretch pants that made her look right at home among the Florida snowbirds. Roberts said, "I'm so very sorry," and Mrs. Goodman nodded. "Please accept my apologies. I'm a mother too. We raise these kids, and we hope they do right," Roberts continued. "You know, all we can do is pray."

"You're absolutely right," Mrs. Goodman agreed.

Roberts, an affable sort, seemed close to making an ally out of the mother of the man she had just put behind bars. "What the hell is wrong with them?" the prosecutor wondered out loud.

WPTV Channel 5 - May 16, 2012 / John Goodman bond hearing: Judge holds hearing on Goodman's $7 million bond

John Goodman with Guy Fronstin
John Goodman (center) with his attorneys Guy Fronstin (right) and Roy Black.
photo by Lannis Waters, The Palm Beach Post

A hearing regarding the terms of John Goodman's release on bond lasted about one to two minutes Wednesday morning.

Prosecutor Ellen Roberts said the hearing was to clarify that Goodman would not be allowed to socialize if he is released. 

Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Jeffrey Colbath has signed an order allowing the 48-year-old Texas-born tycoon to return to his home at the International Polo Club Palm Beach instead of beginning to serve a 16-year prison sentence. 

All day members of Goodman's defense team have been coming and going from the Palm Beach County Jail. 

Sources close to the case told NewsChannel 5's Alex Sanz that 'security issues' being worked out in connection with the condition's of Goodman's release could keep him in jail a bit longer. 

It's possible Goodman might not get out until Thursday. 

Under terms of the bond, Goodman would return to his home at the Polo Club and would not be allowed to leave the club's grounds. He also has to line up off-duty police to watch him around the clock, and he won't be allowed to socialize with club patrons. 

The most unusual part of the bond deal involves Goodman's girlfriend, Heather Hutchins, whom he adopted in the fall to gain more control over his two school-age children's roughly $300 million trust. If a Delaware court recognizes the adoption and allows Hutchins to receive money she could share with Goodman, his bond would be revoked immediately. 

Goodman has been in the Palm Beach County Jail since March 23, when he was convicted in the 2010 crash that killed 23-year-old Scott Wilson. 

Wilson drowned after Goodman's Bentley slammed into and then pushed Wilson's Hyundai into a canal. Goodman didn't call 911 for nearly an hour

The Palm Beach Post - May 3, 2012 / Goodman juror drank vodka as a test before verdict

John Goodman with Guy Fronstin
John Goodman sits at the defense table talking with attorneys Mark Shapiro (left) and Guy Fronstin during a hearing Monday when the jurors from Goodman's trial were questioned.
photo by Lannis Waters, The Palm Beach Post

WEST PALM BEACH - In what some defense attorneys predict is the bombshell John Goodman has been looking for to throw out his DUI manslaughter conviction, a juror says he had three vodka drinks one night during the trial just to see how it would affect him.

Although not the two shots of tequila and Grey Goose cocktail witnesses testified that Goodman had before the 2010 crash that killed 23-year-old Scott Wilson, the experiment that juror Dennis DeMartin details in his self-published book violates time-honored rules of the criminal justice system, defense attorneys said.

"If we now have a juror doing exactly what was alleged during the trial, that crosses the line," said attorney Michael Salnick. "It's outrageous. It shocks the conscious and goes against everything the jury system stands for."

Attorney Gregg Lerman voiced similar views. "Jurors are not supposed to go home and conduct any experiments," he said. "You're suppose to base your decision on evidence you hear at the trial, not outside influences."

The revelations come as Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Jeffrey Colbath weighs whether to grant Goodman a new trial because one juror said Monday that other jurors pressured him to find the Wellington polo mogul guilty. Goodman's attorney Roy Black also has raised questions about the propriety of DeMartin's plans to write a book.

On Thursday, DeMartin finally got copies of his book, Believing in the Truth. In the 32-page book obtained by The Palm Beach Post, DeMartin writes that he conducted the drinking experiment to satisfy his curiosity.

"It was bothering me that if there was proof that if Mr. Goodman only had 3 or 4 drinks, how drunk would he be? How drunk would I be. I decided to see," DeMartin writes in the book he produced on Createspace.

After realizing the drinks left him "confused," he concluded a person shouldn't drive after drinking.

"When the alarm went off the next morning, I got up and felt relieved," he wrote. "The question in my mind the night before was answered to me. Even if a person is not drunk, 3 or 4 drinks would make it impossible to operate a vehicle. I got dressed and was in a fine frame of mind to go to deliberate the evidence we had."

During that day's deliberations, he said jurors found that Goodman was "not fit to drive." He doesn't say he told them about his experiment. However, he writes, "I surely decided that the night before."

Black will undoubtedly use the book to bolster his arguments that Colbath should throw out the verdict. Attorney Grey Tesh isn't sure he will succeed.

Unlike the other lawyers, Tesh said he's not sure it matters whether a juror conducted an experiment during the trial or whether a juror came into the trial knowing what it felt like to have three drinks.

"People bring in their own perceptions about things, their own experience, their own views, their own biases," he said. "One of the things judges always tell jurors is don't leave your common sense at the door."

Salnick disagreed, saying conducting an experiment, mimicking the situation portrayed during the trial, is akin to visiting the crime scene or doing independent research, both reasons appeals courts have invalidated jury verdicts.

"You have a juror re-enacting the allegations of the crime. How could anyone in that situation get a fair trial?" he said.

When questioned by Colbath on Monday, DeMartin said he initially voted to find the 48-year-old Texas tycoon not guilty. Reached later, he said he was convinced of Goodman's guilt after the jury, during its deliberations, replayed a 911 call Goodman made after the crash on 120th Avenue South and Lake Worth Road. Unlike his trial testimony, Goodman doesn't tell the dispatcher that his Bentley surged uncontrollably. That, DeMartin said, sealed his decision that Goodman was guilty .

Since the March 23 verdict, Black has filed more than a half-dozen motions, pointing out media, prosecutorial and even bailiff misconduct that he said should be reason to overturn Goodman's conviction. His allegations of jury misconduct prompted Colbath to summon jurors back to court Monday.

Responding to comments jurors made when Colbath interviewed them, Black filed another motion Thursday, criticizing Colbath's questions. He said Colbath should have delved deeper into juror Michael St. John's claim he felt forced to "go with the flow" of jurors who wanted to convict.

The Palm Beach Post - April 27, 2012 / Goodman judge won't remove himself from case; juror interviews in doubt

John Goodman
John Goodman listens to questioning of potential jurors during the second day of jury selection in his DUI manslaughter trial.

Judge Jeffrey Colbath
Judge Jeffrey Colbath speaks on Tuesday, April 17, 2012, with Roy Black, John Goodman's attorney, via conference call during a hearing to determine whether to bring in all jurors from Goodman's trial for questioning.

WEST PALM BEACH — A legal volley Friday between John Goodman's lawyers and the judge in his DUI manslaughter case has jeopardized Monday's plans to question jurors on their alleged misdeeds during his trial.

Jurors for the past two weeks have been the focus of Goodman's quest to have Circuit Judge Jeffrey Colbath toss his conviction in the death of 23-year-old Scott Wilson.

On Friday, Colbath refused a request from Goodman's lawyers asking him to step down from the case for failing to tell them about incidents where two jurors and a woman who says she overheard another juror's conversation tried to contact him after the verdict.

In another order Colbath issued Friday, he said his office typically forwards the letters he receives to lawyers without his involvement.

"Therefore the court is not personally aware as to what correspondence exists," Colbath wrote.

In response to Colbath's rulings, the polo mogul's legal team, led by Miami defense attorney Roy Black, made immediate plans to appeal and fired back with an emergency request to stop Colbath's scheduled Monday afternoon interview with the jury.

Colbath planned to ask jurors whether they discussed Goodman's considerable wealth during the less than six hours it took for them to decide he was guilty. Guy Fronstin, another member of Goodman's legal team, asked Colbath to put off the hearing until the appeals court decides whether he should stay on the case.

Lawyers for Goodman, a 48-year-old heir's to a Texas heating and air conditioning fortune, team, had wanted to ask jurors about a wide range of alleged misconduct, including juror Dennis DeMartin's plans to write a book about his experience. Colbath decided to limit the questions to the narrow issue of what place, if any, Goodman's wealth had in their deliberations.

Colbath set a preliminary hearing for Monday morning to decide whether he will go through with the afternoon interviews.

Just before the close of business Friday, Goodman's legal team also asked Colbath to reconsider his decision to limit the interviews and added they felt they should be able to informally question the jurors themselves outside of court.

Goodman's lawyers - who have also accused prosecutors, the media, attorneys for Wilson's family and Colbath himself of acting improperly in the case - on Friday said it was possible that the court deputies in the case also misbehaved.

If Colbath interviews jurors Monday, Goodman's lawyers want him to reconsider his ruling limiting the jury questions and conduct a full interview.

Among the new questions, Goodnam's team would like Colbath ask jurors whether they reported any allegations of bullying among the jurors to the bailiff, citing a letter from a woman who said she overheard one of the jurors tell a friend the day after the verdict that she reported the misconduct to a court official.

Fronstin said the only way panelists could have known that juror Ruby Delano was an alternate during the trial was if they found out from reading media reports "or, worse, from a bailiff or court personnel."

Delano was the first to complain of juror misconduct, although DeMartin has denied the claims.

Monday was originally scheduled as the day Goodman would learn his fate on the conviction for DUI manslaughter with failure to render aid, a verdict the six member jury returned after his two-week trial.

Colbath postponed Goodman's sentencing indefinitely after the jury issues came up. If and when he is sentenced, Goodman faces up to 30 years in prison.

WPTB Web Team - April 3, 2012 / John Goodman: Visitors meet with him at the Palm Beach County Jail. He continues to await sentencing.
SUBURBAN WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - John Goodman's girlfriend and adopted daughter, Heather Hutchins, spent an hour visiting Goodman in jail Saturday, according to new documents obtained by NewsChannel 5 through a public information request.

Hutchins is listed as Goodman's "fiancé" on the sign-in sheet. Goodman adopted Hutchins in October of last year.

Goodman is being held at the Palm Beach County Jail after a jury found him guilty of DUI manslaughter and vehicular homicide last month in connection with the death of 23-year-old Scott Wilson.

Other visitors include lawyers, Guy Fronstin and Eric Stettin, and a psychologist, Steven Strumwasser.

Goodman could face up to 30 years in prison. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for April 30.

NYDailyNews.com - February 9, 2012 / John Goodman's children protest father's move to adopt 42-year-old
By Nina Mandell

John Goodman with Guy Fronstin
John Goodman, center, shown with attorneys Guy Fronstin, left, and Mark Shapiro, right,
is released from the Palm Beach County Jail in West Palm Beach, Fla.,
Wednesday, May 19, 2010.
photo by Gary Coronado/AP

A millionaire's family aims to thwart his twisted plan to protect his dough.

The children of a Florida polo magnate are fighting his adoption of his 42-year-old girlfriend, arguing they were blindsided by the bizarre legal maneuver designed to combat a wrongful death lawsuit.

John Goodman's children, who live in Delaware, filed a lawsuit to kick their new "sibling" off of their trust account last week, months after the millionaire added her in a move he said was to protect the trust fund from an unscrupulous management Firm, the Palm Beach Post reported.

"I have never seen anything like this in my 31, 32 years practicing law," their attorney, Joseph Rebak, told the newspaper on Wednesday. "Obviously we think it's wrong and we are hoping to have it set aside."

Lawyers for Goodman said there was nothing nefarious about their intentions with the trust fund.

GROSS! FLORIDA MAN LEGALLY ADOPTS 42-YEAR-OLD GIRLFRIEND

"Mr. Goodman has placed his trust in Ms. Hutchins to continue his vision and provide oversight, should he become unavailable to do so, for the growth and preservation of the Trust assets for the benefit of his two minor children," Goodman's lawyers said in a statement last month.

He added that 95 percent of the trust's assets will go to Goodman's biological children.

The fund is reportedly worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

But attorneys for Lili and William Wilson, the parents of a 23-year-old killed two years ago in a car crash involving Goodman, say it's all just a legal ploy to protect his money from the damages a jury could award the victim's family.

A judge agreed and said the victim's family would be entitled to the 1/3 of the trust.

Earlier this week, the Wilson's attorney asked a judge to block the sale of a 1700 acre piece of property owned by the trust, the Palm Beach Post reported.

Goodman's trial on charges of DUI manslaughter and leaving the scene of the accident begins next month.