Saturday, March 24, 2012

Just When You Think You Have Heard About the Worse Person in the World, Along Comes Polo Mogul John Goodman

No Not the Actor, Just One More Despicable Rich Person

But At Least in This Case Florida Justice is Admired

It is difficult to feel optimistic and generous towards people when one learns of John Goodman of Palm Beach, FloridaMr. Goodman was just convicted of a horrendous crime.

A Florida jury has convicted Palm Beach polo mogul John Goodman of killing a 23-year-old motorist while driving drunk two years ago, according to news reports out of West Palm Beach. . . .

Sentencing is set for April 30, and he faces up to 30 years in prison for DUI manslaughter, vehicular homicide and not rendering aid, the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel says.

Driving his black Bentley drunk in February 2010, Goodman, founder of the International Polo Club Palm Beach, ran a stop sign in Wellington and smashed into Wilson's car, police said. Wilson's car landed in a canal, where he died.

Goodman fled and waited nearly an hour to call 911. His blood-alcohol was more than double the legal limit, the equivalent of 16 drinks, police said.

But as bad as that is, what Mr. Goodman has done to protect his assets from being taken by the victim’s family is almost as worse.  Mr. Goodman has many of his assets in a trust for the benefit of his children.  These assets may or may not be subject to pay for damages if a court rules he must pay family of Mr. Wilson.  But Mr. Goodman has a girlfriend, and she would not be able to get any of his assets if he loses them in the civil lawsuit.

So Mr. Goodman has legally adopted his girlfriend.

Goodman adopted Laruso Hutchins on Oct. 13 in Miami-Dade County to protect his assets from Wilson's parents, who later sued him for their son's death. The civil trial is set to begin Tuesday.

The guardian of Goodman's two biological children has asked a court to invalidate the adoption.

In this way the girlfriend can partake of Mr. Goodman’s wealth, at the expense of course of his biological children unless justice is somehow served and the trust is invalidated and its assets made available for compensation.  But compensation is really not part of Mr. Goodman’s DNA.

As far as the conviction is concerned, the jury rejected the defense’s position and explanations

In closing arguments Thursday, Black told jurors a confluence of circumstances he'd explained to them last week - a malfunction in Goodman's Bentley, a concussion from the crash, and drinks guzzled after the wreck - left Goodman with a blood alcohol level of twice that at which drivers are presumed impaired after the crash.

But even though Mr. Goodman is extremely wealthy, and could afford the best defense possible his attorney argued he didn’t get a fair trial.

Goodman's attorney, Roy Black, said he plans to appeal the verdict. "It is our belief that multiple errors were committed during and before the trial that, in effect, denied our client's ability to get a fair trial," he said in an email to the Associated Press.

Although it would seem that the person who was really treated unfairly here is the victim, Mr. Wilson and his family.  But that is not of any concern to people like Mr. Goodman.

Finally, law enforcement in Florida has come under intense criticism recently but at least in this case and these circumstances Florida jurisprudence shines.

In 2008 Florida lawmakers enacted a law that requires drivers convicted of DUI manslaughter to serve a mandatory four years in prison, meaning judges cannot impose a sentence of less than four years. The law also forbids judges from suspending or deferring sentences in DUI manslaughter cases.

"The sentences are severe," said attorney Michael Salnick, who has defended clients charged with DUI manslaughter. "That's the hardest thing, telling a client who has no priors that these are the low ends of the sentencing guidelines if you go to trial."

So if Mr. Goodman goes to jail for 10 to 30 years, well justice at least in one case in Florida will be served.  That will not help victims like Scott Wilson and Trayvon Martin and their families, but it will be of some solace to the rest of us.

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