March 14, 2012 -- A multi-millionaire accused in the death of a Florida college graduate had downed multiple alcohol beverages before getting into his luxury car and running a stop sign, prosecutors said Tuesday in opening statements of the trial, even as the defense painted a picture of a man whose car had malfunctioned and sped out of control, leaving him with a concussion when it slammed into the victim's vehicle.
John Goodman, the founder of the International Polo Club Palm Beach in Wellington, Fla., is being tried on charges of DUI manslaughter, vehicular homicide and leaving the scene of a crash. He has pleaded not guilty, and faces up to 30 years in prison if he is convicted.
The Houston multi-millionaire is charged in the death of 23-year-old Scott Wilson, a recent college graduate and civil engineer who was on his way to visit his family on the night of Feb. 12, 2010, when his car was struck by Goodman's Bentley in Wellington.
Investigators say the car was going about 63 miles per hour.
The impact left Wilson's Hyundai upside down in a canal, and Wilson, who was still in the driver's seat, drowned.
Defense attorney Roy Black told jurors that Goodman's $250,000 Bentley had malfunctioned that night.
"As it gets close to the stop sign all of a sudden the car surges forward, you see him trying to control this enormously powerful car," he said.
Because of the injuries Goodman sustained -- which included a broken wrist, fractured sternum and concussion -- Goodman did not realize that the car he hit had landed in a canal, Black said.
"I know this is an ugly part of this case, that someone would leave someone behind in a condition like this, but that's not what happened," he said.
Prosecutor Ellen Roberts told jurors in Circuit Court in West Palm Beach that several witnesses had seen Goodman drinking -- first at dinner and later at the Player's Club Bar in Wellington -- before he got into his car and crashed into Wilson.
"He ordered Mind Erasers, he ordered eight Mind Erasers," she said. "Now (a) Mind Eraser is Kahlua, vodka, tonic and somehow you mix it together and suck it down real fast through a straw."
Goodman allegedly fled the accident scene on foot, and allegedly didn't call 911 until about an hour after the crash. It was determined that his blood alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit.
Black explained to jurors that Goodman was not drunk until after the accident, when he was with a friend.
"This man is in pain and he sits down and there's a bar right in front of him," the attorney said, adding that his client took a bottle and "swigs it down in some effort to stop the pain."
A bartender and friend of Goodman's testified today that the defendant didn't appear drunk when he was served the drinks.
Goodman, 48, is heir to a heating and air conditioning fortune. He created a furor when he adopted his 42-year-old socialite girlfriend, Heather Hutchins, as his daughter, apparently in a bid to protect his wealth from lawsuits. His teen children have petitioned the court to toss out the October adoption.
Wilson's parents reportedly have settled a wrongful death civil suit with Goodman. In light of news of the alleged settlement, Goodman's attorney on Tuesday asked Circuit Court Judge Jeffrey Colbath to declare a mistrial. Colbath denied the request, the Post reported Tuesday night.