John Goodman sentenced to 16 years for DUI manslaughter


Because he has a 16-year DUI manslaughter prison sentence ahead of him, and because a judge believes a third jury likely will return the same guilty verdict as two others before , John Goodman this afternoon lost his last chance — at least for now — to be a free man.

Chief Circuit Judge Jeffrey Colbath’s decision to deny an appellate bond for the Wellington polo club founder on Friday came after the judge unceremoniously handed Goodman the same sentence he got in 2012 after a first jury convicted him in the February 2010 death of Scott Patrick Wilson.

Colbath’s ruling, which considered claims from prosecutors Alan Johnson and Sherri Collins that a second jury’s conviction last month would make Goodman more likely to run, also followed his rare move to make Goodman pay $122,000 in prosecution and investigative costs along with a $50 daily fee for every day he spends behind bars.

Capping the 20-minute ending Friday to the sentencing hearing that began Wednesday, Colbath looked at Goodman for what could be the last time and wished him luck.

The tough thing about cases like Goodman’s, Colbath said, is that the defendants are usually decent, hard-working people who otherwise contribute positively to their communities.

“Make one horrible mistake and horrible consequences result,” Colbath said. “This is one of those cases that there are no winners, and there never will be.”

Goodman rammed a car driven by Wilson, 23, a University of Central Florida engineering graduate, pushing Wilson’s car into a Wellington canal, where he drowned.

Goodman’s legal team said the sentence didn’t surprise them, but they were taken aback by the fact that Colbath denied their request for a $4 million appellate bond. Colbath also shrugged off a proposed $10 million bond from prosecutors, who said they would accept that amount if the judge refused to deny bond altogether.

Colbath ordered Goodman held at the Palm Beach County Jail for another 30 days before entering the state prison system to give Goodman’s attorneys time to appeal the judge’s bond order.

While Colbath lumped Goodman in with other defendants, his lawyers said the criminal justice system has dealt with him differently. They cited Colbath’s decision to make him pay what could be nearly $300,000 in incarceration costs as evidence.

“He has been treated like no other criminal defendant,” defense attorney Elizabeth Parker said, later adding: “Under the law all defendants are equal regardless of race, sex, religion or economic status.”

The judge refused to give Goodman credit for the 810 days he spent on house arrest but granted him time served for the 154 days he has spent in jail.

Parker even referenced Palm Beach County Sheriff’s deputies’ treatment of Goodman, mentioning a social media post from the agency on the night the second jury convicted him. Deputies let the public know that Goodman was served rice, beans, bread and a cookie that night at the jail. Officials later removed the post.

Goodman’s appellate attorney, Margaret Good-Earnest, said Goodman was entitled to an appellate bond because there are substantial appealable issues in his case.

Good-Earnest said she’s confident that an appellate court will overturn Colbath’s bond ruling. In a written ruling, Colbath dismissed claims from Goodman that he was broke.

Goodman’s family made a fortune from their father’s Houston heating and air-conditioning business, which sold in 2003 for $1.4 billion. But last year, his brother and sister claimed in documents submitted Wednesday, Goodman’s income was a mere $59,459. “My brother is no longer wealthy,” Greg Goodman wrote.

They assured Colbath their brother wouldn’t flee if freed during appeal, which could take years.

In his written ruling, Colbath said Goodman already demonstrated the ability to leave a place where he was required to stay by law when he left Wilson to drown, disappearing for nearly an hour after the 1 a.m. crash.

The fact that another jury returned an identical verdict to the 2012 verdict that Colbath threw out because of jury misconduct makes matters worse, Colbath wrote.

The 51-year-old’s attorneys are hoping that an appellate court does the same this time for any of a number of issues, including prosecutors’ early release of Goodman’s Bentley from state custody and the fact that Colbath limited their attacks on blood-alcohol evidence.

Colbath agreed that the new appellate grounds weren’t frivolous, which is usually a basis for judges to allow defendants to post bond while fighting a conviction. But the judge said Goodman fell short on four other factors, which included the propensity to flee, his two convictions and the length of his sentence.

“The likelihood of flight is also increased because the defendant is an individual with the financial means to flee to a country without extradition and to live a very comfortable lifestyle for the rest of his days,” Colbath wrote.

Defense lawyers disagreed with Colbath, saying Goodman believes strongly in his chances of getting another trial and wants to see his appeals through.

Goodman also could dispute Colbath’s decision to reimburse taxpayers for prosecution costs. Colbath threw out more than $1,000 in charges prosecutors related to issues surrounding an accusation that Goodman tried to cut off his monitor while on house arrest — a charge Colbath found meritless.

And Goodman also will contest Colbath’s decision to take no action on his related conviction for vehicular manslaughter. In 2012, former Goodman prosecutor Ellen Roberts dismissed the charge after the jury convicted Goodman of DUI manslaughter, but Colbath allowed prosecutors to let a jury decide on the charge again last month.

After his latest conviction, prosecutors decided not to drop the charge this time, and with few prior appellate court decisions on the matter, Colbath said he thought it best to let the 4th District Court of Appeal decide how to handle it. Criminal defendants are typically barred from serving time on two homicide charges in a case where only one person was killed.

Johnson, on his way out of court, echoed Colbath’s wish for Wilson’s parents, Lili and William, that he hoped his new sentence would close this chapter of grief for them.

Nothing will bring their son back, the prosecutor said. But he hoped for their sake that there would be no third trial.



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