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Florida millionaire found guilty of DUI in man's death

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 6:25 PM EDT, Fri March 23, 2012
John Goodman, 48, was found guilty on the two counts he was charged with. A sentencing hearing is set for April 30.
John Goodman, 48, was found guilty on the two counts he was charged with. A sentencing hearing is set for April 30.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Prosecutor: Defense experts weren't "credible" and had "bizarre" theories
  • John Goodman is convicted of DUI manslaughter and vehicular homicide tied to a 2010 crash
  • Prosecutors say the Florida millionaire was drunk when he hit another car, fled the scene
  • The mother of the man killed in that crash says "it's time for the healing process to begin"

(CNN) -- Florida millionaire John Goodman was found guilty Friday after being accused of driving drunk, hitting another vehicle and running it off the road into a canal, where its driver was later found dead in his submerged car.

Goodman, 48, was found guilty on the two counts he was charged with. The first was DUI manslaughter and failure to render aid. The second was vehicular homicide and failure to give information to authorities or aid.

The Palm Beach County jury reached its verdict after about 5½ hours of deliberation, following closing arguments Thursday afternoon.

A sentencing hearing is set for April 30, with Goodman potentially facing 11½ to 30 years in prison.

Until then, Circuit Judge Jeffrey Colbath revoked Goodman's bond and ordered that he be detained by authorities.

The victim's mother, Lili Wilson, thanked the jury after the verdict and took solace in her belief that "justice has been served."

"I'm always going to miss my son. He was the most wonderful," she said, choking up at the thought of her son. "I will always cherish his memories. And now, coming from me and the rest of the family and his friends, it's time for the healing process to begin."

The incident occurred early the morning of February 12, 2010, when Goodman was driving his black Bentley convertible in Wellington, Florida, "at a high rate of speed while intoxicated," according to a probable cause affidavit.

Goodman failed to halt at a stop sign, where the other driver -- Scott Wilson -- didn't have a stop sign and had the right of way, the affidavit said. The two men's vehicles collided, causing Wilson's car to go over a bank and roll over into a canal.

"After the collision occurred, Goodman made no attempt to look for Wilson's vehicle and fled the scene of the collision on foot," according to the affidavit from the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office. "Goodman left the Bentley GTC at the scene ... and left Scott Wilson to drown in the canal, belted in the driver seat of his vehicle."

A pair of tests taken three hours later showed Goodman's blood-alcohol content level was .177% and .178% -- and, based on those findings, a state toxicologist extrapolated that he was closer to a .20% or .23% at the time of the crash, more than three times Florida's legal limit.

Prosecutor Sherri Collins further argued that Goodman could have saved Wilson's life had he gone after him after the crash rather than walk away.

"He called his friend, and she had to talk him into calling 911," Collins said during closing arguments Thursday. "That is absolutely failure to render aid, that is absolutely failure to give information, that is absolutely not informing the authorities.

"If the defendant had rendered aid, Scott Wilson would have lived."

Goodman himself testified earlier in the trial, claiming he was "absolutely not" intoxicated when he left the second of two establishments he'd gone to that night. He blamed a malfunction with his vehicle for his failure to stop and the fact he hit Wilson's car.

"I began to apply my brakes, and the car did not seem to be stopping as easily as I was used to," he said on the stand. "I continued to apply the brakes, I slowed before the stop sign and ... took my foot off the brake. And that's the last thing I remember."

His lawyer, Roy Black, argued that the blood-alcohol readings don't jibe with eyewitness testimony, saying that people saw him have three drinks and not the 20 he would have needed for such a high reading.

And Black said the observations that Goodman's reactions appeared slow after the crash, that he had trouble gauging where he was and that he seemed confused were "consistent with the symptoms of suffering a concussion."

After Friday's verdict, Assistant State Attorney Ellen Roberts said she suspected the jury "saw through the defense experts," who she said "just weren't real credible" and offered "bizarre" theories.

"(Jury members) were very careful, they gave it a lot of thought, they went over a lot of evidence, and I think that they probably returned the only verdict that they could," Roberts told reporters.

In addition to his role in the fatal crash and the subsequent trial, Goodman made headlines a few months ago when he legally adopted Heather Colby Hutchins -- his "42-year-old girlfriend" -- according to a court order issued in late January.

That court order was written by Dade County Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley in response to a motion filed by Wilson's relatives. They are suing Goodman -- as well as the International Polo Club Palm Beach, which he founded -- for punitive damages tied to Wilson's death in the crash.

The adoption of Hutchins made her eligible for money from a trust fund created for Goodman's children. The court previously noted that any money from this trust fund "may not be considered a part of the net worth, or the financial resources, of Mr. Goodman for purposes of assessing punitive damages," the order said.

The judge, in his order, granted the plaintiffs' motion to get more information on the adoption.

He also said that Hutchins' "interest in the children's trust may be considered in connection with defendant John Goodman's financial resources."

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