Friday, 23 March 2012

No Thank Goodnesses for Goodman

The conviction of billionaire John Goodman

I have followed the trial of John Goodman with great interest in recent days and today’s verdict was not surprising given his lack of recollection of the tragedy that he caused.

John Goodman with his lawyers: Mark Shaprio, Guy Fronstin and Roy Black

On the 12th February 2010, Goodman, who sold his family business, Goodman Manufacturing, for $1.43 billion in 2004, crashed his Bentley Continental GTC at speed into a Hyundai Sonata driven by a 23-year old engineering graduate named Scott Wilson at a stop sign at Lake Worth Road and 120th Avenue in Wellington, Florida. Wilson’s car was catapulted into a canal and he subsequently drowned.

A reconstruction of how John Goodman’s 2007 Bentley Continental GTC hit Scott Wilson’s Hyundai Sonata

Goodman, who also founded the International Polo Club Palm Beach and was a protégé of the $7 billion Ponzi-schemer Sir Allan Stanford, claimed: “I don’t know what happened,” whilst on the stand this week before adding that the car suddenly lurched forward at the intersection. He continued: “I began to apply my brakes, and the car did not seem to be stopping as easily as I was used to.”

The Players Club: owned by Wall Street financier and Bridgehampton Polo principal Neil Hirsch. The club recently settled a wrongful death civil lawsuit with the Scott Wilson’s family for an undisclosed amount that is thought to be in the region of $6 million.

Goodman, who stated that he drank two shots of tequila and two shots of vodka at The Players Club prior to the accident, then fled the scene leaving Wilson to drown belted in the driver seat of his vehicle. In court he argued that he did not know he’d hit another driver and headed to the “man cave” of a nearby barn where he downed yet more booze to “alleviate [his] pain.”

Next, Goodman went to a trailer park and woke a woman named Lisa Pembleton. Here, an hour after the accident, he called first his girlfriend-daughter Heather Laruso Hutchins (also known as Heather Colby), an assistant and then finally 911 at 1.55am at the instructions of Pembleton.

John Goodman’s $272 Players Club Bar bill for 10 Espolon Silver 10 singles, 1 Patron Silver single, 1 JW Red single, 1 Grey Goose single and 5 Patron Silver 5 singles, opened at 11:23pm on the 11th February 2010 and closed at 12:52am on  the 12th February 2010

In defence, Roy Black, Goodman’s attorney, blamed the accident on a fault with his “out-of-control runaway monster” Bentley. Bentley’s spokesperson, Valentine O’Connor, said in response:

"We have complete confidence in our vehicles, and are prepared to demonstrate such confidence when appropriate.

If indeed a fault were with the car, it would be the first Bentley in the United States to have experienced a “throttle-brake-computer” failure and plainly the jury didn’t believe such.

Ignacio “Nacho” Figueras

The trial attracted significant media interest not only because of Goodman’s wealth and status but also because of the witnesses called. Amongst them was the “David Beckham of polo,” Ignacio Figueras, who had been paid $120,000 to play on Goodman’s polo team. Figueras testified that he had not seen Goodman “impaired” that night when he had worked as a “celebrity bartender” at the White Horse Tavern but as he’d left the party early, his evidence plainly didn’t count for much.

The key argument against Goodman came from Prosecutor Sherri Collins who argued that Goodman could have saved Wilson’s life had he not walked away:

"He called his friend, and she had to talk him into calling 911... That is absolutely failure to render aid, that is absolutely failure to give information, that is absolutely not informing the authorities.... If the defendant had rendered aid, Scott Wilson would have lived."

Scott Wilson

Today John Goodman was convicted of DUI manslaughter and vehicular homicide. Sentencing has been set for 30th April and it is expected that he could get up to 30 years in jail.

Of the verdict, State Attorney Peter Antonnacci commented:

"Scott Wilson was a young man with a bright future and his life was tragically cut short. I hope that Scott's family now experiences some closure so that the healing process can go forward in this particularly tragic event.”

Lily Wilson, the mother of the victim, added:

"I know that it took a lot for them to come up with a conclusion and justice has been served… I’m always gonna miss my son... I will always cherish his memories. And now, coming from me and the rest of the family and his friends, it's time for the healing process to begin."

Goodman’s hacienda at 3665 120th Avenue, Wellington, Florida, FL 33414, a property leased from a trust that benefits his two children and 42-year old girlfriend Heather Laruso Hutchins (also known as Heather Colby). Goodman recently adopted Ms Hutchins as his daughter so that she could also benefit from the trust.

This case is indeed a tragedy for all involved. Scott Wilson lost his life because John Goodman did not attempt to save him but equally a man whom many describe as “generous” and “decent” is heading to the clink. Today was not a day when the Goodman family could say: “Thank goodness for Goodman.”

For more information on the International Polo Club Palm Beach, 3667 120th Avenue South, Wellington, Florida, FL 33414, go to:

For more information on The Players Club Restaurant, 13140 Southshore Blvd, Wellington, Florida, FL 33414, go to:


Caleb said...

What a waste. Goodman did much good for the polo world.

Liam said...

If only someone had relieved him of his car keys. Tragic.

guest said...

Please, how much did they pay Figueras to testify???  He needs to remember that he is no longer in Argentina

Matthew Steeples said...

He was paid to play in a polo team rather than to testify. He supported someone who'd been his patron.

Matthew Steeples said...

I quite agree.

Matthew Steeples said...

Plainly he did. If only he'd not got into that car.

I do, however, think the whole compensation thing awarded to the Wilson family a little bit ludicrous. Thank goodness we've not quite adhered to this approach in the UK yet.

Sungypsy19 said...

Indeed, and I am thankful he didn't lie about leaving early.
I have lived in Wellington for 23 years and know well that we owe a lot to the Polo community for establishing our city. John Goodman has done a lot of great things. Can't believe he left Scott to die as he did. So tragic.

Matthew Steeples said...

He is certainly paying for his mistake now as are both families.

Roderick McKay said...

Mr Figueras handled himself very well.

Mr Goodman didn't.

Mr Wilson, though, had no choice in the matter.

Remember the victim.

Roderick McKay said...

Mr Figueras is a good man. He didn't lie. He just recounted what he'd witnessed.

Matthew Steeples said...

Well worth a read: an analysis of Goodman's potential avenues for an appeal:

Guest said...

Taking one's car keys would have been a wonderful idea. But what about being a responsible 48 year old man? To have consumed the amount proven, then to knowingly left that young man to die because of Goodman's lack of concern? He deserves everything handed down to him, and then some.