At 1:30 a.m. on February 12, Lisa Pembleton woke to the sound of a man pleading for help. Groggy in the chill of a winter morning, she was bundled inside a thin metal camper. Thick, rural darkness surrounded her. No streetlights or glowing living rooms disturbed the view. Her beloved horses, Geno and Jubal, asleep in the stables beside her, were her only companions amid the acres of generous fields off 120th Avenue South. Four months earlier, she'd road-tripped down from California to study horse training behind the dauntingly green hedges of Wellington.
To find her, the man had hopped a fence and trampled down a sand-gravel road, tracking white dust on the soles of his cowboy boots. He knocked on the flimsy camper door and appeared in her bedroom like a dilapidated ghost, wearing jeans and an unbuttoned suit jacket.
"I was just in an accident, and I need to use your phone," he sputtered.
Pembleton, 26, was not a cynical woman. She had trusting eyes, a sunny smile, and an abiding faith in God. She shunned alcohol and paid rapt attention to the gospel on Sundays. But she was no idiot.
This man's eyes were bloodshot. He was tripping over his words. He held an iPhone and its dead battery in his hand. Beneath his brown, J. Crew-style haircut, his forehead was bruised, his wrist swollen.
Pembleton kept the lights off. She scrambled for her Mace. "I didn't know who he was, or if he was telling the truth," she wrote later on her blog.
A week earlier, she'd had the strangest dream: A man broke into her camper, saying he needed the phone. In the dream, she found her Mace and kicked him out but felt terribly guilty afterward. This time, "by God's grace, my response was different," she wrote.
She put down the Mace and handed over her cell phone so the man could call his girlfriend, Heather Colby, in Georgia. Pembleton heard him say that "he had really effed up, and he didn't know what he should do."
He was tall and affable, clean-shaven but bumbling. He sat on Pembleton's couch and asked if he sounded drunk.
"What should I do now?" he wondered.
Call 911, Pembleton advised. But the man didn't move. He explained to Pembleton that he had "drank a few," according to her interview with sheriff's investigators.
"He was very hesitant, as he did not want to get into trouble," Pembleton wrote later. "But after some encouragement, he called."
"I hit something, and it had to have been another car," the man told the dispatcher. "I'm just at somebody's barn. I feel horrible. And they think I'm crazy."
Pembleton walked with the man down the road, toward the crash site. Before he left, he pulled out a wad of bills and tried to hand them to her. "I don't need your money," she said. He stuffed his hand back in his pocket.
Only later, after the flashing lights sliced through the inky darkness, did Pembleton learn that the dark-haired stranger was John Goodman, a 46-year-old multimillionaire trust-fund heir and polo hero of Wellington.
The "something" he'd hit was a Hyundai driven by 23-year-old Scott Patrick Wilson, a University of Central Florida graduate who had been driving home to Wellington to visit his family. The force of the crash capsized Wilson's car, tossing it into a drainage ditch. Trapped in the driver's seat for nearly an hour as Pembleton and Goodman talked, Wilson drowned before rescuers could reach him.
It was, as Goodman told his girlfriend, an "end-of-the-world accident." The story would soon attract national attention as a saga about money and justice, pitting an überrich playboy against the modest family of an aspiring young engineer.
Pembleton was a crucial postaccident witness. In the ensuing days and weeks, she turned away an avalanche of reporters who clamored to hear her story. Then she left town to continue her horse training in Vermont.
"The only thing I regret," she wrote, "is while I was with [Goodman] for about a half hour, before the authorities came, I never prayed with him."
Indeed, Goodman walked away that evening free of judgment, at least in the legal sense. He was not arrested or charged with any crime.
Goodman had grown up around horses in Houston, although not the polo kind. His father, the late Harold Goodman, raised racing thoroughbreds. Dad had also built a heating and air conditioning manufacturing business that made him among the 100 richest men in Texas. His four children, two sons and two daughters, would live off his success for the rest of their lives. Built more like a longshoreman than a jockey, John Goodman didn't originally gravitate toward the gentleman's sport of polo. As a kid, he played football and lacrosse. He attended a boarding school in Massachusetts and the private Wesley College in Delaware.
When he returned home to Texas, Dad made him vice president of international sales at Goodman Manufacturing. John married Isla Carroll Reckling, a Catholic girl from an old-money Texas family, and moved into a $2.6 million home.
In 1989, a few years after he married, John Goodman decided to take polo lessons. He was drawn to the tradition of the game, the camaraderie, the competition. Here was a sport you could play on horseback and still feel like a jock.
In polo, each team has four players, riding in a space roughly 300 yards long. Their challenge is to hit the ball with wooden mallets, moving it down the field and into a goal, without losing control or crashing their horses into one another.
Invented by hordes of nomadic warriors 2,000 years ago, the game has morphed into something both violent and genteel. "It's like a war," Goodman said in a 1998 interview with the Houston Press. [Disclaimer: New Times and the Houston Press are owned by parent company Village Voice Media.] "Something bad can happen to you, and then something good happens."
Polo was used to train cavalry in the Middle Ages and was played by Persian conquerors long before it became known as the "sport of kings." One warrior played with the decapitated heads of prisoners. Only centuries later did the game become a more refined affair, beloved by British royalty. It has spread around the world, finding special popularity in America and also Argentina, which is home to the best players on the planet.
A polo match is a spectacle, an outdoor show that combines speed, magnificent animals, and a certain unattainable status — not every kid in the Bronx can pick up a stick and learn to play. Wealth is required to assemble a team, buy the horses, and enter tournaments.
Teams are divided by skill level, from "low goal" to "medium goal" to "high goal." Most of the 3,000 polo players in America are low- or medium-goal competitors. But even they are an elite group, because a small stable of horses can cost $140,000 to $280,000 — not to mention the grooms, equipment, and other fees.
Goodman is a patron (pronounced pah-TRONE), the owner of a high-goal team. This puts him in a select group of about ten polo moguls in the United States. In 1991, he converted his dad's horse farm into a polo ranch. He bought 70 polo horses and started a team named after his wife, Isla Carroll. His stable was said to include some of the best polo ponies in the world, including a prize mare, a gift from Carroll, that cost $400,000. Many patrons spend $2 million a year on their teams, in addition to the salaries of their top players, which can reach $2 million apiece.
There's no profit in owning a team. A patron simply doles out millions on his favorite game, buying prestige and the chance to compete with the best players in the world. New friends come with the purchase.
The social boost could only help Goodman, since schmoozing was not his strong suit. "He stutters a lot," Goodman's former employee and polo teammate, Kris Kampsen, told a sheriff's deputy in a sworn interview. "He's a very introverted guy. So to even have, like, a conversation about the weather is hard, much less anything else... To get him to open up and even talk is pretty difficult."
According to the North American Polo League, Goodman's polo handicap is one, an amateur's ranking, while each of his teammates is ranked five or seven. But skill was never the point.
High-goal polo, at its core, is a spectator sport. It instantly conjures images of dashing, dark-haired athletes in collared jerseys or models in white dresses and red-soled Christian Louboutin heels. The goal is to see and be seen, often sipping champagne and sporting extravagant shades.
"You have some of the wealthiest people in the world; [it's] highly competitive," says Ken Braddick, owner of dressage-news.com in Wellington. "It is in fact very much like a Kentucky Derby. Every Sunday is an event."
A patron like Goodman, shy yet eager to please, could enjoy tremendous popularity by throwing the best parties, being the most gracious host.
"You're at his house and music's on; he's like, 'Do you like the music? Are you sure?' " Kampsen said. "He's kind of nervous about things like that. He wants you to be having a great time."
In 1997, Goodman caused a cosmic clash in the polo world. He bought the 22-year-old POLO Magazine and converted the niche sports publication into an homage to wealth. Its glossy pages featured a story on Claudia Schiffer's home in Monte Carlo and on the death of Gianni Versace in Miami. Ads extolled the virtues of Chanel, Gucci, and Breguet watches.
Ralph Lauren was not amused. His fashion empire was built on selling Americans the fantasy image of polo. Anyone who tried to do the same was hijacking his idea. Polo Ralph Lauren sued the magazine for trademark infringement and won a partial victory. The magazine was forced to run a disclaimer every issue stating that Ralph Lauren was not involved.
In 1998, a Houston Press reporter visited Goodman at the Goodman Manufacturing headquarters to interview him before the Lauren case went to trial. By this time, the patron had two kids and was playing the part of a good corporate son at his dad's company. Yet it was clear he had little interest in his day job.
"Behind the desk, looking very Brooks Brothers, Goodman didn't know how to use his computer," reporter Randall Patterson wrote. "His gaze was unsteady, his speech uncertain. His secretary had kept his afternoon entirely open so he could get a flu shot."
"I don't know what I do, but I stay busy," Goodman told Patterson. "But don't make it like I'm real busy, OK? Because I don't want to be like I'm a big shot."
That same year, Goodman came under fire for being a less-than-responsible steward of his family's wealth. His brother, Greg, sued him in Harris County Circuit Court, trying to remove John as trustee of Greg's children's trust fund. Greg said that he and his brother had a "hostile" relationship and that John was not qualified to oversee the trust fund. "He never finished college, and pursues no serious profession," the suit alleged.
Eventually, the brothers reached a settlement, and John stepped down as trustee. Greg Goodman, who now breeds horses and owns the Mt. Brilliant polo team in Kentucky, didn't respond to requests for comment.
Meanwhile, John became chairman of his father's company and continued to pour millions into his beloved polo. He began spending more time in Wellington, which had over the years developed into an unlikely hub for the sport.
Six decades ago, Wellington — a small suburb between the Everglades and West Palm Beach — was home to the world's largest strawberry patch. Mucky swamps were drained and converted into the Flying Cow Ranch. In the late 1970s, Bill Ylvisaker, head of the electronics corporation Gould Inc. and also a skilled polo player, transformed the place into horse heaven. He built the Palm Beach Polo and Country Club — a sprawling venue with 11 polo fields, two golf courses, tennis courts, and pools — and lured the Winter Equestrian Festival to its stadium.
By the next decade, Wellington had become a winter playground for the tea-and-mimosas crowd. Prince Charles and Princess Di cheered in the Palm Beach Polo stadium. Cartier and Piaget sponsored the A-list parties, with guests like Zsa Zsa Gabor, Sylvester Stallone, and Charlton Heston. Polo was Wellington's ticket to highbrow fame.
But real estate in Florida is a fickle animal. By the early '90s, the vast Polo Club development, which by then included hundreds of homes, was bankrupt. Developer Glenn Straub bought it at a government auction, and homeowners soon began to complain.
Straub seemed more interested in his land value than in promoting the sport of polo. He cut back on staff and let the polo facilities wither. Instead of luring celebrities, he focused on the steady, mundane revenue stream of low- and medium-goal polo, show-jumping, and other equestrian events. High-level players began fleeing to other venues to host their tournaments.
"John [Goodman] saw it as a profession and entertainment," Straub says. "We see it as more of an amenity."
But such a bottom-line view of the sport didn't sit well with locals accustomed to pulling off the road to tailgate Sunday afternoon games or catch a glimpse of royalty in the stands.
"There was a danger that Wellington [polo] could have slid back or could have sort of fizzled," says Braddick.
John Goodman didn't let that happen. In 2004, his family sold Goodman Manufacturing to a buyout firm for $1.4 billion, and John devoted more time to his life in Wellington. He turned his lush backyard into a playground and a reincarnation of Ylvisaker's dream: the International Polo Club Palm Beach.
Glitterati such as Tommy Lee Jones, polo veteran Memo Gracida, and Ralph Lauren model/polo superstar Nacho Figueras graced the lavish fields. Chauffeured crowds flocked to the games to sip Moët and nibble on $100 brunches. In February 2009, Madonna showed up at an International Polo Club match and spawned rumors that she was looking to move to Wellington.
The club's facilities include four polo fields, tennis courts, a pool, a spa, and a restaurant. Those fields are now among the best polo arenas on the planet, Braddick says, and the club has the honor of hosting the U.S. Open Polo Championship. The Manolo Blahnik set pays about $25,000 — by invitation only — for yearly membership to the club. Games are open to the general admission masses at $15 a pop.
Meanwhile, Wellington's acres of unnatural velvet grass have become the village's signature attraction. Gated communities with names like Equestrian Club and Versailles rest sedately off the main roads. Turn down a quiet corner and you'll be surrounded by millionaires' estates.
Tall, meticulously trimmed hedges and iron-spiked gates shield these plantation-style ranches from inquiring eyes. Beaming coats of arms — an owl, crossed polo sticks — mark the entrance to each team's territory.
Polo, with its international tournaments, lavishly catered parties, and reliance on pricey horse care and breeding, has become an economic engine that powers Wellington. Locals heap much of the credit on Goodman. "What he's done is really remarkable," Braddick says. "To have kept polo here and to have expanded it — this has become a true global center of polo."
The closest Scott Wilson ever got to the horse haute couture in Wellington was a high school gig selling hot dogs and greasy pizza to the crowds at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center.
He moved to Wellington in eighth grade, with his parents and a younger sister who adored him. By Wellington standards, the family was far from wealthy, but Wilson grew up in a sprawling house on 2.5 acres, with a circular driveway, Greek columns, and double front doors decorated with gold Chinese symbols. Twenty years ago, his parents paid $70,000 for this property in sleepy Wellington; it's now worth ten times that amount.
Friends say Wilson was a quirky, absent-minded Einstein teenager, with a complete lack of fashion sense and a self-proclaimed "shit-eating" grin. He was constantly inventing things — in college he built a hovercraft — but would often lose his wallet or neglect to fill his gas tank."That's what made him so endearing as a friend," says his college roommate, Paul Healy. "He was so unique."
Wilson often couldn't sleep at night, so he'd stay up playing videogames or ask Healy to shoot hoops at 2 a.m. Every year, he and his dad, also an engineer, bet against each other in March Madness brackets. One year, for Christmas, he received six alarm clocks as gifts. "He was like, 'Think my parents are trying to tell me something?' " Healy remembers.
"Just knowing him, it was hard not to laugh," Healy says. Introduce him to a girl and Wilson would be endearingly klutzy — trying not to spill a glass of water or get his shirt caught on a chair. "You could just sit back and watch and be really entertained for like 20 minutes," Healy says.
But Healy and Wilson's other friends also admired him for being a kind and patient brother and a steadfast friend. Wilson refused to drink booze, even on New Year's Eve. He was always the designated driver.
"If a girl got real sick, he'd be holding her hair back," Healy says. "He was the honorable one out of all of us."
Sitting outside a Starbucks in Greenacres before Memorial Day weekend, a small circle of Scott Wilson's close friends laugh as they swap these stories. They remember Wilson's love of darts and Ping-Pong, his MacGyver-like attempts to fix his car. They talk about the stretch of Lake Worth Road they've adopted in Wilson's name.
But the circle grows quiet when Goodman's name comes up. The guys keep their eyes on the ground. Jamie Baker, a studious 24-year-old with flashing eyes and acres of curly hair, speaks up.
"Yes, I understand, accidents happen," she says. But if Goodman was drunk, "he was very selfish. I think he should be punished."
Minutes later, Baker tries to be more judicious. She allows that the accident is "really sad" for everyone involved.
But Garrett Edelstein, 24, wrestler-shaped with freckles and red stubble, bristles at the suggestion that anyone should pity Goodman. After all, no matter what happens, the polo mogul will still have his millions. "It's just a blip in his life," Edelstein says.
Last winter, Wilson was living in Orlando, applying for jobs with his newly minted mechanical engineering degree and dealing poker to pay the bills. The morning of the crash, he was headed home to celebrate his sister's birthday and reunite with some high school buddies. "We were all planning on coming home that weekend," says another friend, James Courbanou.
Instead, the friends got early-morning phone calls on February 12, with news of the unthinkable.
At the Players Club Bar & Restaurant on South Shore Boulevard, jasmine seduces the air on the cobblestone patio. Trellises of fuchsia bougainvillea line the bar's arched doorways. A string of white lights twinkle by the tent where private parties are usually held. The bar overlooks the former Palm Beach Polo Club fields; now, tiki torches cast a glow upon the quiet greens.
Most Sundays, January through April, the polo afterparty lands here, where the cocktails are expertly strong, the barkeeps charmingly flirty, and plenty of dark, chiseled Argentine polo players whisper in the ears of adoring groupies. Booze flows so freely, insiders say, that customers have been known to pass out in the parking lot.
The night before the fatal accident, Goodman had started off with dinner and drinks during a Celebrity Bartending Challenge at the White Horse Tavern. Polo celebs Nacho Figueras, Marc Ganzi, and Goodman's ex-teammate Kampsen were slinging drinks behind the bar to raise money for the YMCA of the Palm Beaches.
"What's the deal here?" Goodman asked when he arrived.
Kampsen explained that people were supposed to put tips in a blue jar for charity. "So [Goodman] reached in his pocket and grabs a bunch of money and threw it in our blue tub," Kampsen told sheriff's investigators.
The friends drank and ate with a table of about 30 people. When the fundraiser ended, Goodman moved on to the Players Club, just up the road from his International Polo Club.
Shortly after 11 p.m., he cruised up the circular driveway, with its glittering fountain and stone statue of a polo pony. The valet took his keys and parked the Bentley convertible without skipping a beat — for the patron, no ticket was required.
Through the carved wooden doors, ornate as the entrance to a French chalet, Goodman headed downstairs to the dark bar, with its leather couches, green walls, and paintings of polo players. Not so many years ago, this club was private, and it shows.
When Goodman arrived, ladies' night was in full swing. "As soon as he walked up, he asked for ten shots of my best tequila," bartender Cathleen Lewter later told a sheriff's deputy.
Kampsen soon showed up, along with other polo friends. Goodman bought a $200 round that included tequila, Grey Goose, and Johnny Walker Red for the assembled crew.
Then the patron turned his focus to 32-year-old Stacey Shore, a polo fan with a shimmering tan and long, chestnut hair. As the night wore on, Goodman would wander away from his friends to chat with her. They flirted and danced and kissed a little, Shore told sheriff's deputies.
"We were having a good time," Shore said in a sworn interview. "Him and I were actually having very detailed conversations that night."
At one point, Goodman slipped and fell. The bar manager blamed it on a slick spot on the floor. Lewter, a veteran employee of the Players Club, later told investigators that she didn't think Goodman was wasted. She'd seen him much tipsier before.
"He's just kind of a disgusting drunk," she said. "Sweaty and slurring his speech and just kind of like a lump of a person."
When she handed him his bill around 12:30 that morning, Goodman was standing, speaking coherently. Lewter had seen him put down two shots of tequila and a vodka tonic, "but it didn't dawn on me that he had too much to drink," she said.
As Goodman prepared to leave, Shore followed him into the stairwell that leads out to the Players Club parking lot. They talked about going home together. They talked about going to downtown West Palm, but Shore refused to drive, and Goodman's regular driver, Larry, was off that night. So Goodman came up with an alternate plan.
"Let's go get some cocaine," Shore said he suggested.
Shore refused. "I told him to go home," she said, before heading back down to the bar.
Shore later told investigators she was "shocked" by Goodman's offer, because she'd never seen him do drugs. But Lewter told a different story.
"Quite honestly, I've seen him come into the bar late at night with powder hanging out of his nose," she said.
Last year, in divorce documents ending their 22-year marriage, Carroll Goodman suggested that her husband was an addict."Respondent has a history of substance abuse, namely cocaine use," her attorney wrote. John had agreed to submit to random drug screening, then failed to follow through, Carroll alleged.
Whether or not he was searching for a fix that morning, Goodman didn't go home. Around 12:50 a.m., he left the bar in his Bentley alone. About ten minutes later, he was barreling down narrow 120th Avenue South, where the posted speed limit is 35 mph.
At the intersection with Lake Worth Road, investigators say Goodman blew through a stop sign at 63 mph. He smashed into Wilson's Hyundai with such force that the crumpled car tumbled upside down into a drainage canal.
Dazed and nursing an injured wrist, Goodman stumbled out of his car and started walking south. He allegedly headed to the nearest friend's house he knew: Kampsen's barn, on 120th Avenue South. The barn is a sort of "man cave," Kampsen told investigators. It's got an office, a TV, and a stocked bar.
"I went upstairs thinking that was where you live," Kampsen said Goodman told him later. "I kept thinking it was weird that you didn't have a bedroom up there, and I didn't know where you were."
Goodman rummaged around for awhile, then gave up because he couldn't find a phone. He hopped a fence and found Pembleton's camper.
Back at the crash site, the minutes ticked by. The first sheriff's deputies arrived at the accident scene by 1:12 a.m. Shattered glass surrounded Goodman's mangled Bentley. Two firefighters waded into the canal to look for signs of life in the submerged Hyundai. The rescuers felt around the driver's side but couldn't find anyone in the dark, cold waters. Only after they called a tow truck to lift the wreck from the murky canal did the rescuers see Wilson's pale face, still strapped in the driver's seat, his lungs filled with silt.
Goodman called 911 just before 2 a.m. A deputy found him on the road near Pembleton's camper, reeking of booze. He sent Goodman to Wellington Regional Medical Center to get treatment for his broken wrist. On the way, Goodman kept asking if there was another victim of the crash, according to a paramedic who was in the ambulance with him. "He was very worried about the other driver," firefighter Scott Mock told a sheriff's investigator.
At the hospital, another sheriff's investigator noted Goodman's bloodshot eyes and slurred speech. He asked the patron to give a statement about the crash, but Goodman said he had to talk to his lawyer. He never gave the interview.
The investigator asked Goodman's lawyer, Wade Byrd, if Goodman would give a blood sample. Byrd said he wasn't sure Goodman would agree. The investigator explained that he had probable cause, and Goodman had no right to refuse. By the time a nurse took the sample, three hours had passed since the crash. Goodman's blood alcohol was 0.177, more than twice the legal limit.
Later in the morning, Goodman's brother, Greg, came to visit him in the hospital. John borrowed Greg's phone to call Heather Colby again.
She asked Goodman if he was OK. "Well... how good can I be?" Colby told investigators he responded. "Somebody's dead."
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.)
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"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.