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Behind the high hedges of Wellington's polo community, it's nearly impossible to get people to share their thoughts about Goodman. Their livelihoods depend on the industry he funds, so they keep their mouths shut. Most will say he's a "nice guy" and leave it at that.
"That's true, he is a nice guy," Braddick says. "He's very hands-on in his business... and he's obviously very capable in those regards."
"He's a person of his word, is well-respected in the community, does his social time that you have to do when you're in Wellington," adds Glenn Straub, the developer who built the Palm Beach Polo and Country Club.
The chairman of the U.S. Polo Association board of directors declines to comment and hangs up. John Wash, president of the International Polo Club, refuses an interview on the advice of his lawyers. . A spokeswoman agrees to give New Times a tour of the club's world-renowned facilities, then cancels at the last minute.
Even the sun-leathered men who live in the cramped, yellow apartments attached to the stables on Pierson Road are reluctant to talk about Goodman. A compact man named Antonio says he doesn't work for Goodman but knows him vaguely from polo. He calls the patron "amable," Spanish for kind. Goodman is known to pay his workers generously and on time and treat his horses well. About 200 people work at the International Polo Club, which means Goodman feeds and clothes a small army of families.
In the polo world, many insist that the crash was simply a tragic accident and has nothing to do with the sport Goodman bankrolls.
"I don't think this sort of thing has anything to do with the sport," Braddick says. "I think this is a terrible human tragedy."
Straub concedes that the incident "doesn't have good connotations to it." High-goal polo is an insular planet inhabited by only the ten to 20 best teams in the country. This ultrawealthy clique doesn't relish the headlines caused by a drunken scandal.
But Straub is certain that the multibillion-dollar polo industry in Wellington will survive when the season resumes in January, no matter what happens to Goodman. He's not the only multimillionaire patron with cash to burn. "We're not going to let that industry whimper for any one individual," Straub says.
It took the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office three months to complete its investigation of the crash. Meanwhile, Goodman was free to stay in luxury Miami hotels, fly back to Houston to see his family, and hire the best attorney money could buy.
"I can't even understand how we have to wait all this time to get answers," Lili Wilson, Scott's mother, told television cameras outside a West Palm Beach courtroom, where she had filed a civil lawsuit against Goodman for wrongful death. Her lawyer has said the damages could top $100 million. "Every day, I keep thinking I'm going to wake up. This is a nightmare."
In March, Goodman and some friends got fifth-row tickets to a Heat-Lakers game. Polo players Marc Ganzi, Sugar Erskine, and Kampsen drove down to Miami to visit the elusive patron for the evening. Before the game, they ate dinner at the Palm Restaurant, a swanky steak house.
Greg Goodman was there, along with his two sons. Mostly, the group talked about polo. John Goodman was concerned about how the polo club was running in his absence.
"Is it running good?" he asked Kampsen, according to Kampsen's interview with a sheriff's deputy. "Are the hedges trimmed right? If they're not, would you call me and tell me the hedges aren't trimmed?" (Kampsen declined to comment directly for this article.)
It wasn't until the morning of May 19 that Goodman opened his hotel-room door at the Four Seasons in Miami to find a swarm of cops. They cuffed him and drove him back to the Palm Beach County Jail. He was booked and charged with vehicular homicide, DUI manslaughter, and failure to render aid; if convicted, he could spend up to 30 years in prison. But he didn't stay in jail long.
Attorney Roy Black is famous for getting William Kennedy Smith acquitted of rape and Rush Limbaugh acquitted on charges of doctor-shopping for Oxycontin. Within hours, he had Goodman released on a $100,000 bond. The patron would later plead not guilty, agree to surrender his passport, and submit to regular drug and alcohol tests. (There were no criminal charges related to alleged drug use.)
"Mr. Goodman intends to vigorously defend himself against the criminal charges, while continuing to do all within his power to minimize any further suffering by the Wilson family," Black said in a statement to the media. "The defense team believes that the arrest warrant and charges reveal only a part of the whole story. We ask that the public and the media not rush to judgment until all of the facts are known."
Goodman walked briskly out of jail in a white, loose-fitting button-down, looking as if he'd lost a few shirt sizes in the months since the accident. His hair freshly shorn, his face cleanly shaved, the patron appeared tired, perhaps remorseful. But he stayed silent, allowing his lawyer to lead him away.
Houston Press Staff Writer John Nova Lomax contributed to this article.