WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Did John Goodman's electronic ankle monitor break accidentally or because of tampering? That's the key question to be decided at a high-stakes criminal court hearing Tuesday.
Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Jeffrey Colbath is expected to decide whether the Wellington polo executive can again leave the Palm Beach County Jail on bond pending his appeal of a DUI manslaughter conviction and prison sentence.
In March, a jury found Goodman, 49, guilty of driving drunk and causing a February 2010 crash that killed Scott Wilson, 23. In May, Colbath sentenced Goodman to 16 years in prison, but also allowed him to post a $7 million bond while his attorneys seek relief from the 4th District Court of Appeal in West Palm Beach.
While the appeal is ongoing, Goodman's house arrest privileges were taken away late in the evening of Oct. 10, when authorities responded to an alert that his bracelet became inoperable.
Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw and his deputies accused Goodman — heir to a Texas heating and air conditioning fortune and founder of International Polo Club Palm Beach in Wellington — of intentionally destroying the GPS monitoring device with a handheld mirror in one of his mansion's bathrooms.
Goodman, who was paying $2,000 a day for two deputies to guard him on the property, reported he accidentally hit the monitor on a shower door.
At a hearing Oct. 12, Assistant State Attorney Sherri Collins argued the break from the mirror appeared to be deliberate and asked the judge to permanently revoke Goodman's bond and start the clock on his prison sentence.
But Colbath granted a request from Goodman's defense attorneys to suspend the hearing, to allow time for court-recorded interviews with deputies and an independent laboratory in Stuart to inspect the broken ankle monitor.
Those tests were performed Dec. 3, with an intact device used for comparison. A state crime lab also inspected the damaged monitor. The results of these examinations will be discussed when the hearing resumes Tuesday.
Collins said the state will stick with its request for Goodman to remain behind bars because of the incident.
Guy Fronstin, one of the attorney's defending Goodman, said his client did not try to break the monitor and should return home to wait out his appeal.
The state Attorney General's office filed papers last week urging the appellate court to uphold the polo mogul's March conviction and subsequent sentencing. Among numerous arguments, the state contends Colbath was right in denying a new trial for Goodman despite juror misconduct: a drinking experiment by juror Dennis DeMartin.
After the trial, DeMartin, of Delray Beach , said he had three vodka drinks the night before the verdict in an effort to assess how impaired Goodman might have been during the crash. DeMartin later published a book that recounts the experiment.
The state also rejected Goodman's other reasons for the appeal, stating that Colbath: properly denied a motion for judgment of acquittal; did not violate Goodman's due process rights; did not err by limiting the cross-examination of a witness; and did not make mistakes in jury instructions. Also, the state dismissed Goodman's contention that a litany of other errors warrants a new trial.