South Florida Millionaire Convicted of DUI Vehicular Manslaughter

By Mike

A man colorfully described by the Washington Post as a “South Florida polo mogul” was convicted on charges of DUI manslaughter and vehicular homicide this week after a fatal drunk driving crash that occurred two years ago.

A jury in Palm Beach County convicted 48-year-old John Goodman on both of the felony charges, which were raised in response to the death of 23-year-old Scott Wilson, according to a report from the Washington Post.

Sources say that, two years, ago, an inebriated Goodman sped through a stop sign and slammed his Bentley into Wilson’s car, which caused Wilson to roll into a canal, where the victim eventually died.

Shockingly, Goodman reportedly fled from the scene and waited roughly an hour before calling 911 to report the incident. At the time of the accident, sources say that Goodman’s blood alcohol level was measured at .177, which is more than twice the legal limit.

Despite the negative verdict, Goodman’s DUI attorney, Roy Black, said that he and his client plan to appeal the decision, though he did not offer any concrete examples of the portions of the trial the two would be challenging.

Nevertheless, in Black’s words, “multiple errors were committed during and before the trial that, in effect, denied our client’s ability to get a fair trial. We intend to file an appeal so that our client can receive the just and fair proceeding to which he is entitled by law.”

Of course, the prosecutors in the case feel differently. According to State Attorney Peter Antonacci, “the jury in the Goodman case exercised sound judgment in its analysis of the factual and expert evidence in this trial.”

In addition, Antonacci observed that “Scott Wilson was a young man with a bright future, and his life was tragically cut short. I hope that Scott’s family now experiences some closure so that the healing process can go forward in this particularly tragic event.”

The Goodman trial has captured the attention of many legal observers in Florida due to the shocking nature of the accident, and the relative wealth of the accused man.

Goodman is the founder and owner of the International Polo Club in Palm Beach, and, as evidence by the use of his Bentley on that fateful night, has plenty of cash to burn.

Now, thanks to one very, very poor decision, Goodman faces the potential of spending the next 30 years in prison. Sources do not suggest whether the judge is leaning towards a lighter sentence, but this will be determined at the sentencing hearing on April 30.



DWI Driver Strikes Pedestrian, Continues Driving

By Topher

Residents of the large southern state claim that everything is bigger in Texas. A grisly recent story suggests that this adage applies to the magnitude of DUI incidents, as well.

After bizarre incident, a Texas man has been accused of striking a pedestrian on a Houston freeway, then failing to recognize that the victim had crashed through the passenger-side window.

According to sources, the victim of the accident, a 32-year-old man, had broken down on the side of Interstate 45 and was running back and forth across the highway seeking help.

At some point, James John Onak approached in his black Mazda and allegedly struck the man. The force of the impact sent the man flying through Onak’s windshield, killing him instantly.

The death of the pedestrian is certainly tragic by itself, but the police report reveals a truly bizarre ending to the tale.

After the impact, Onak continued driving down the highway until he was pulled over by local police two miles down the road after the police saw severe damage to the front end of Onak’s car.

When the officers discovered the man’s body in Onak’s car, the driver simply stated that he had hit something earlier but did not recall what it was. The police claim that Onak did not recognize the presence of the dead body in his car until he left the vehicle.

One of the officers on the scene, using a keen intuitive sense, detected that Onak might be driving under the influence of alcohol or drug.

After performing a mandatory blood draw, the police later charged Onak with driving while intoxicated, also known as a DWI arrest.

Onak was also charged with a felony for failing to stop and render aid, as well as a felony for causing an accident involving injury.

If he is convicted on all the charges, Onak could spend two to 10 years in prison. Sources also anticipate that Onak could face more charges as the police continue to investigate the bizarre accident.

While the story suggests that Onak could spend a significant amount of time behind bars, one Houston police officer warns that is conceivable that Onak simply did not see the man enter his vehicle through the windshield.

This is unlikely, but Onak’s alleged failure to witness the man’s death could provide him a strong defense.

Onak’s fate will likely not be determined for at least a few months, but his legacy has already been solidified in the minds of the officers who responded to the scene.



Former California Firefighter Gets Nine Year Sentence in DUI Death

By Mike

Mitchell Green, of Kern County, California, near Bakersfield, served in the army for six years in Bosnia and Afghanistan, and he was a firefighter on the local force. He didn’t have a criminal record to speak of, and his friends called him a model citizen.

Before the night of February 2, 2010 , that is. On that night, Green drove drunk, and he got into a car accident. He collided with a vehicle carrying Michelle Maxwell and her teenage daughter. Michelle Maxwell died, and Mitchell Green now faces nine years in prison for charges related to California DUI, according to the Bakersfield Californian.

Her husband, Jerry Maxwell, acknowledged that, no matter what the sentence was, their lives were forever changed by Green’s decision. Judge Charles H. Brehmer noted during the sentencing that Green didn’t mean to hurt anyone, much less cause their death.

Maxwell’s mother, Marceline Seberger, spoke in court about the loss that she had suffered, emphasizing that there was no way that Green could know the way that they felt. She did believe that Green was remorseful, however, following the trial, saying that she could see the emotion in Green’s eyes. The last thing she said to Green was, “May you make peace with God before you see him face to face.”

Maxwell’s daughters told the Californian that they forgave Green for his actions the night his DUI caused their mother’s death. But they acknowledged the continued pain they would face. “She will never be able to spoil my children or even meet them,” said Michaela Maxwell, who was in the car the night of the crash.

Jerry Maxwell felt less kindness in the hours following the crash. Green was in a hospital bed near his family, according to the Californian, and he acknowledged a desire to hurt Green after learning that his wife had died. But his wife’s memory stayed his hand. “I heard my wife’s voice saying, ‘It’s not worth it,'” he told the paper.

Green had plead no contest to the felony gross vehicular manslaughter charge in December. His pickup truck collided with the Hyundai Sonata occupied by the Maxwells. Green had run a red light, and he didn’t brake even as he hit the smaller car.

His blood alcohol content registered at .13, over the .08 legal limit across the country.



Former Yankee Jim Leyritz on Trial for DUI Manslaughter

By Mike

Jim Leyritz once played in the most famous ballparks alongside baseball stars like Derek Jeter and Roger Clemens, but now he is on trial for DUI manslaughter after a tragic night left a mother dead.

The Florida DUI trial has most recently featured the testimony of a witness who testified that Leyritz ran his Ford Expedition through a red light and hit the SUV driven by Fredia Ann Veitch, killing her.

The witness, a bouncer at a bar in Ft. Lauderdale, claimed that Leyritz appeared to be trying to make it through the intersection before a yellow light turned red. He didn’t make it, said the accident witness, as reported by the New York Daily News.

The accident took place in December of 2007, at just after 3 in the morning. Henry also said that Veitch had the green light as she entered the intersection. “She didn’t have to stop because it was green,” he testified.

Henry was cross-examined regarding the timing of his witnessing of the accident, and he did offer that he looked up to see the incident only after he heard brakes screeching nearby.

Some evidence in the case, namely that there were no skid marks before the intersection, could shed some doubt on the timing claimed by Henry. There were screech marks on the road after the traffic lights, which may suggest that Henry did not see what the state of the traffic lights was at the time that he started viewing the incident.

According to the prosecution, Jim Leyritz had been out on the town, taking shots of vodka and tequila to celebrate his birthday when he took the wheel. His blood alcohol content was measured at .14 percent, which is almost double the legal BAC limit of .08.

Leyritz has pleaded not guilty to the DUI charge and to vehicular homicide. If he is convicted of the crime, he could face 15 years in prison.

In addition to Henry’s testimony, the prosecution has said that another witness, a passenger in Leyritz’s vehicle, would also testify that Leyritz ran the red light.

Other evidence in the trial includes testimony from witnesses who say that Leyritz did not appear intoxicated following the accident. One of those witnesses is a police detective.

Prosecutors will counter those accounts by asking jurors to look at police video of Leyritz’s field sobriety test.

“What you will see is a man who is being given instructions and can’t follow those instructions, even though he is not falling-down drunk,” prosecutor Stefanie Newman told the jury.

Leyritz had previously settled a civil suit with the family of the victim, though he did not admit any liability.



Florida Man Not Guilty of DUI Manslaughter in Crash

By Mary Ann

An Ocala, Florida man was found not guilty of DUI manslaughter and DUI with property damage. The Ocala Star-Banner reports that David Andrew Ballinger had faced up to 31 years in prison and $20,000 in fines.

The Star-Banner earlier reported that the Florida Highway Patrol had responded, in January, to a single-vehicle crash. They found Robert Lewis Wilson pinned beneath the vehicle. Witnesses told investigators they had seen a man jump out of the truck and try to help Wilson, but that the man had run away.

Five hours after the crash, police went to Ballinger’s home and drew blood.  His blood alcohol level was 0.05 percent, five hours after the crash.

A Florida Department of Law Enforcement toxicologist testified Ballinger’s BAC could have been above legal limit for DUI of 0.08 percent at the time of the crash. The Star-Banner’s article does not indicate whether Ballinger argued he had drank alcohol following the crash.

It appears that convincing juries that a driver was DUI when his measured BAC was below 0.08 percent is becoming increasing difficult.