Bloomberg News

Palm Beach Polo Tycoon Convicted of Vehicular Homicide by Jury

March 24, 2012

Florida polo tycoon John Goodman was found guilty of driving under the influence-manslaughter and vehicular homicide in the 2010 death of a 23-year-old man whose car Goodman slammed into with his Bentley.

A six-person jury in Palm Beach County, Florida, yesterday convicted Goodman in the death of Scott Patrick Wilson on Feb. 12, 2010, the Palm Beach County, Florida State Attorney’s office said.

Goodman ran a stop sign in his convertible, striking a car driven by Wilson, which careened into a roadside canal, prosecutors said during the trial. Goodman walked home and waited an hour before calling 911, prosecutors said.

“The jury in the Goodman case exercised sound judgment in its analysis of the factual and expert evidence in this trial,” Palm Beach County State Attorney Peter Antonacci said in a statement. “Scott Wilson was a young man with a bright future and his life was tragically cut short.”

Goodman, 47, faces as long as 30 years in prison. Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Jeffrey Colbath ordered Goodman held in custody and set an April 30 sentencing date.

Goodman founded the International Polo Club Palm Beach in Wellington, Florida, in western Palm Beach County.

‘Sense of Justice’

Scott Smith, an attorney representing Wilson’s parents, Lila and William, in a wrongful death suit against Goodman, said yesterday they were relieved by the verdict.

“There is a sense of justice in today’s guilty verdict, but they still don’t have their son back,” Smith said. “They are still suffering terribly from the loss of their only son.”

The Wilsons attended the two and a half-week trial daily, Smith said.

Defense attorney Roy Black told the jury that Goodman’s blood alcohol level of .177, more than twice the legal limit, three hours after the crash was because Goodman had gone to a horse barn near his home and drank after leaving the scene, Smith said. Prosecutors said at the trial that Goodman had been at two bars before the crash.

Black said at trial that Goodman’s Bentley malfunctioned, causing the crash, Smith said. A medical examiner testified during the trial that Wilson died from drowning, Smith said.

Appeal Planned

“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,” Black said in a statement released on PR Newswire. “We intend to file an appeal so that our client can receive the just and fair proceeding to which he is entitled by law.”

Black didn’t immediately return an e-mail yesterday seeking further comment on the verdict.

Smith declined to comment on whether the Wilsons have settled their civil suit against Goodman.

Last month, a Palm Beach County judge ruled that the trust Goodman set up for his two children could be considered part of his assets because his 42-year-old girlfriend is also a beneficiary since Goodman legally adopted her as his daughter, said Michelle Bacon, a spokesman for Smith.

To contact the reporter on this story: Susannah Nesmith in Miami at susannahnesmith@yahoo.com.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net.


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