Attorneys: No proof why Goodman would risk giving up ‘sitting pretty’ on house arrest by breaking monitor
By DAPHNE DURET
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 22, 2012
WEST PALM BEACH – As John Goodman headed back to jail for allegedly trying to break his house arrest ankle monitor in October,questions arose as to why the Wellington polo mogul would try such an unsophisticated move with a DUI manslaughter conviction and 16-year prison sentence hanging over him.
Certainly his actions — if proved intentional — would have virtually assured a trip to prison and revocation of his $7 million bond as he seeks a new trial in the case surrounding the February 2010 death of Scott Wilson. But evidence prosecutors and Palm Beach County Sheriff’s deputies presented at a hearing shortly after Goodman’s arrest appeared to leave little room for doubt.
Now, as Goodman is home again after Circuit Judge Jeffrey Colbath last week flatly rejected claims that Goodman purposely tried to demolish the device, even local attorneys who disagree about Goodman’s chances at a new trial say the idea of him trying to break free is highly unlikely.
“For him to have done something like that would have lacked common sense to the point of being unbelievable,” former prosecutor and local defense attorney Darren Shull said. “This would have been the rocket train that sent him to prison.”
Assistant State Attorney Sherri Collins, at Goodman’s bond revocation hearing, had little more than the word of two deputies and an official from the monitor’s manufacturer to back up her argument that there was no way for the device to break except for Goodman to have smashed it. One of the two off-duty deputies guarding Goodman at his expense the night of the incident, along with two experts from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and an independent consultant Goodman hired, all ended up helping prove Goodman’s claim that the device broke accidentally.
That made the question of why the 48-year-old heir to a Texas fortune, with freedom to roam the area around his 11,000-square-foot home, would risk going to jail cell all the more glaring. What’s more, Goodman — testifying during the hearing — provided a revealing look at how he has spent his first five months on house arrest.
The founder of the International Polo Club Palm Beach, allowed one hour of recreation time in the area outside his Wellington estate, said he tried to fit two physical activities into his daily routine. His outdoor activity was usually tennis — either with an instructor or with the few friends allowed to visit him under the terms of his release. He tried to play tennis six days a week.
Goodman said he also tried to fit in an afternoon activity — On the day before deputies hauled him back to jail, it was a 90-minute salsa lesson, Collins revealed on cross examination. Goodman fit all this in between making business calls from home.
Minutes before Goodman said he hit the ankle monitor on his shower door, he was expecting his mother to come over for dinner — one of several guests he was allowed to have at home with him.
Using the same words Colbath used in his ruling, defense attorney Michael Salnick described Goodman as “sitting fat and pretty” on house arrest while his legal team worked out his appeal — a process that can take more than two years.
“Why would he want to trade that to sleep three feet next to a toilet in a jail cell?” Salnick wondered aloud. “There’s no way.”
Salnick is one of many local defense attorneys who say that Goodman has a good chance to win a new trial based on claims surrounding one juror’s drinking experiment the night before the panel began deliberations. Shull disagrees and believes the conviction will stand, but nonetheless says he believes Goodman would have had no reason to flee.
Salnick and others, including defense attorney Scott Cupp, say they don’t understand why prosecutors sought to have Goodman’s bond revoked without stronger evidence.
Ellen Roberts, who headed the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office prosecution against Goodman but had retired by the time the potential bond violation issue arose, attended Tuesday’s hearing and dismissed Goodman’s defense that the device had broken on its own. She compared the notion to the Bentley malfunction defense Goodman attorney Roy Black used during to the trial in an attempt to prove the Goodman had no way to prevent the deadly collision between his car and Wilson’s Hyundai.
A large portion of last week’s four-hour hearing revolved around the testimony of Sheriff’s deputy Bridgette Bott, who testified that she tried to tell Collins that Goodman’s monitor was merely cracked at the time he showed it to her, and only broke open after she and other deputies pulled it apart. She said she tried to testify at the earlier October hearing, but Collins kicked her out of the courtroom and threatened to have her forcibly removed if she failed to leave.
“The bigger question is why the state wasted the court’s time,” Cupp said. “They should have known what the evidence was before they went in.”
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