Polo tycoon John Goodman was sentenced to 16 years in prison and fined $10,000 by a Florida judge today who said Goodman "left to save himself" after his drunk driving crash pushed 23-year-old Scott Wilson into a canal.
Goodman's Bentley slammed into Wilson's Hyundai and sent it into a nearby canal in Wellington, Fla., in February 2010. Wilson, an engineering graduate, was strapped into the driver's seat and drowned.
Goodman, 48, also made headlines by adopting his girlfriend in an attempt to preserve part of his fortune for her while negotiating a civil suit settlement.
Judge Jeffrey Colbath granted that Goodman could be released on a $7 million bond pending his appeal. As conditions for his release, he will be under house arrest, will be monitored 24 hours a day with a GPS device and cannot apply for a new passport. His driver's license has been permanently revoked.
A Florida jury found Goodman guilty of DUI manslaughter and vehicular homicide in March.
Goodman, the multi-millionaire founder of the International Polo Club Palm Beach, claimed in court that his $200,000 car malfunctioned and lurched forward. He has also denied being drunk at the time of the crash that killed Wilson, although other testimony has contradicted him and his blood alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit three hours after the crash.
Goodman left the scene of the accident without calling 911.
"Scott Wilson's death was senseless," Colbath told the court.
"His conduct from the moment the crash happened to the time he came to be in the custody of law enforcement was to save himself. It wasn't to go get help and it wasn't because he was disoriented. It was because he wanted to figure out a way to save himself. He had an opportunity to try to save Mr. Wilson," the judge said.
"I believe what the jury believed—that he knew he pushed [Wilson's] car in the canal. He knew there was someone in the canal and he left to try to save himself," Colbath said.
The prosecution and defense both had witness statements before the sentencing. The prosecution has statements from Wilson's mother, father and father's wife.
"Sunday is going to be Mother's Day and Scott will not be coming home," Wilson's mother Lili Wilson said to the court, choking up as she said "Mother's Day."
"By dying at such a young age, he will never get the opportunity to work as a professional after graduating from engineering school. He will never have the opportunity to marry and have a family of his own," she said while trying to keep control of her voice.
The statements from Wilson's father William Wilson and his wife Cindy Wilson were read by family friends. They both described the night of the accident and how they sat in their car near the accident site for four hours before they were told Scott Wilson had died.
William Wilson's statement described it as "nothing short of a living hell" and referred to Goodman as "my son's killer."
"Four long hours we waited for news hoping for the best, but fearing the worst," he said. "As more and more time passed, hope eventually turned to despair."
Goodman sat with eyes down and his forehead resting on his fist as they spoke.
"When Scott died, a part of my husband died with him," Cindy Wilson said in her statement. "He still has his memories, which make him laugh, but then the laughter turns to tears when William realizes the memories are all he has left."
John Goodman briefly went to the podium to address the court.
"I just wanted to say that from the day after the accident, all I've wanted to do is reach out to the Wilsons and be with them and cry with them. And I can't imagine or even pretend to imagine what it would be like to lose a son."
Goodman said he carries Scott Patrick Wilson with him every day.
"I know that I have to do good and be a better person and carry on whatever I can and do good for him," he said. "I just don't know what else to say. I'm just really, really sorry and my heart goes out to the family and I'm so remorseful and sad."
Polo Tycoon Gets 16 Years in DUI Death
Goodman's sister Betsy Abell apologized to the Wilson family and said, "John is never going to really be okay."
Prosecutor Ellen Roberts' closing statements were accusatory. "This wasn't an accident. He intended to drive. He intended to drink. He did not intend to kill Scott Wilson. But his intent to do the other things caused Scott Wilson's death," she said.
Roberts requested a sentence of 30 years for Goodman.
Defense attorney Roy Black spoke about numerous letters written about Goodman's generosity, dedication to charities and clean record prior to the crash.
"He did not intend to harm anyone," Black said.
The defense team had been aggressively attempting to get a new trial for their client. Both were denied by the judge. One was related to a jurors claim that "it was clear" jurors had made up their minds before the end of the trial and the other was related to a juror writing in his book that he conducted a drinking experiment during the trial.
In April, court documents revealed that Goodman agreed to a $46 million settlement to Wilson's parents. Lili and William Wilson, Scott Wilson's parents, will each receive $23 million in the settlement, the same age their son was when he was killed.