Boca man accused in DUI crash that killed MMA fighter denied reduced bond

To the relief of family and teammates of MMA fighter Jordan Parsons, the man accused of killing the 25-year-old in a drunken accident in May on Wednesday was told he must come up with $450,000 to be released from the Palm Beach County jail.

Dennis Wright stands in court during a pre-trial hearing Wednesday, August 3, 2016. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

Cheers and whistles went up in the courtroom when Circuit Judge John Kastrenakes denied Dennis Wright’s request for a bond reduction. Pointing out that Wright, 28, of Boca Raton was a habitual traffic offender and eight times failed to appear in court on previous charges, Kastrenakes said he wasn’t a good risk for house arrest.

“Despite this young man’s apparent responsible position in our community (as business owner), his behavior in the past has been irresponsible,” Kastrenakes said. Wright’s history of ignoring court orders “tells me that this person doesn’t abide by the rules of society or rules of the court.”

Wright, who faces a possible 70-year prisons sentence on various charges in connection with Parson’s death, was arrested days after the rising mixed martial arts champion died of injuries sustained when Delray Beach police said he was hit by a Range Rover traveling at speeds of up to 110 miles per hour on Federal Highway at Lindell Boulevard. Wright’s attorney, Robert Resnick, said there are questions whether Wright was driving the car or whether the Range Rover, which was registered to Wright’s mother, was involved in the crash. A witness told police that a silver two-door sports car struck Parsons, he said.

Jordan Parsons
Jordan Parsons

Assistant State Attorney Laura Burkhart-Laurie disagreed. Witnesses say Wright was driving the Range Rover and there is video of Wright talking about being involved in the crash, she said. Wright had spent the day at Sunfest, then hit bars in Delray, she said. Friends said he was impaired but he ignored their entreaties not to drive, she said.

Wright and his mother, Patricia Faller, told Kastrenakes they don’t have the means to raise $450,000 to secure his release. Faller said friends and family have pledged roughly $10,000 to $15,000. Since his arrest, Wright said he has received no income from a medical marketing firm he owns. While Resnick insisted Wright and his mother aren’t wealthy, before the crash Wright testified that he was splitting the rent for a $4,000 to $5,o00-a-month condominium. Faller said the monthly payment on the Range Rover is about $985.

“When he was working he was making pretty good money but he wasn’t saving it,” Resnick said. The attorney said he plans to return to court soon to again ask that Wright’s bond be reduced.

Linton Vassell, one of Parsons’ teammates on the team that trains in Boca Raton, said he was satisfied with Kastrenakes’ ruling. “Justice has been served,” he said.

More charges for Dennis Wright, accused in fighter’s hit-and-run death

MMA fighter Jordan Parsons
MMA fighter Jordan Parsons

A vehicular manslaughter charge has been added to the list of charges prosecutors are pursuing against the 28-year-old Boca Raton man accused of killing a rising MMA star in a May hit-and-run.

Prosecutors in a hearing before Circuit Judge Jack Cox Wednesday said Dennis Wright now also faces vehicular homicide charges in addition to charges of leaving the scene of an accident involving a death, DUI manslaughter, evidence tampering and driving on a suspended license in the death of Jordan Parsons. Parsons, whose family filed a wrongful death suit against Wright, his mother and the bar where Wright allegedly drank before the crash, had been training for a May 14 fight and was walking in a crosswalk on U.S. 1 when he was hit by a car.

He died three days later.

Dennis Wright, 28
Dennis Wright, 28

Parsons’ mother, younger brother, and other fighters at the gym he attended were in court Wednesday morning.

“It’s hard to keep going every day, but I know I have to,” said Anna Morsaw, saying that what she missed most about his son was the sound of his laughter and his smile.

The next hearing in Wright’s case is set for Aug. 17.

Family of MMA fighter Jordan Parsons files suit in hit and run

MMA fighter Jordan Parsons
MMA fighter Jordan Parsons

The family of up-and-coming mixed martial arts fighter Jordan Parsons has sued the man accused of killing him in a May hit-and-run crash that severed the fighter’s leg before he died days later.

According to a lawsuit filed late Friday, Parsons’ parents are suing Dennis Wright, his mother, Patricia Fuller and the Buddha Sky Bar, the Delray Beach bar where Wright allegedly drank before causing the crash.

In the 19-page lawsuit, attorney Matthew Schwencke said Wright had a long history of driving while under the influence of alcohol, driving recklessly and driving while his license was suspended.

Dennis Wright, 28
Dennis Wright, 28

Schwencke said because of this, annd because his license was still suspended on April 30, Fuller should not have allowed him to drive the 2013 Range Rover Sport registered to her. Bartenders at the Buddha Sky Bar on that night, according to the complaint, violated a Florida Statute by “knowingly serving, selling and/or furnishing alcoholic beverages to the defendant, Dennis Wright, a person habitually addicted to the use of any or all alcoholic beverages, to the point where he was intoxicated and to the extent that his normal faculties were impaired.”

Parsons was crossing an intersection near Lindell Boulevard and U.S. 1 on May 1 when he was struck by a vehicle, which prosecutors say Wright was driving.

He was taken to Delray Medical Center, where he died of his injuries May 4.

Read the full story here.



John Goodman loses legal battle to toss blood-alcohol test in fatal crash

Wellington polo mogul John Goodman won’t be able to throw out his DUI manslaughter conviction for the 2010 death of Scott Wilson by arguing that shoddy techniques falsely elevated his blood-alcohol level, an appeals court ruled on Wednesday.

ID Photo
John Goodman (Florida Department of Corrections)

In a seven-page opinion, the 4th District Court of Appeal rejected Goodman’s claims that the blood collection method was flawed. They noted that both a state administrative law judge and Circuit Judge Jeffrey Colbath decided that rules were in place to ensure the accuracy of blood tests.

“The rules at issue, when combined with basic laboratory practices, are sufficient to protect the safety and interests of the court system and defendants alike,” Judge Alan Forst wrote for the three-judge panel.

Had the appeals court ruled that the scientifically complex rules were inadequate, Goodman could have used that to challenge his 2014 conviction and 16-year prison sentence. He could have argued that jurors should haven’t been told that his blood-alcohol level was nearly twice the level at which Florida drivers are considered impaired.

Instead, Goodman will have to hope that other issues he has raised in a separate appeal will win him yet another trial. His first conviction was thrown out due to jury misconduct. A second jury reached an identical conclusion about his role in the late night crash that killed the 23-year-old recent engineering school graduate.


Dennis DeMartin ordered back to Florida for new sentencing hearing

(Palm Beach Post staff file photo)
(Palm Beach Post staff file photo)

Dennis DeMartin, the juror once jailed for a series of missteps that led a judge to overturn John Goodman’s first DUI manslaughter conviction, will have to return to Florida if he has any hopes of reducing what’s left of a 6-month jail sentence hanging over his head.

While a potential Florida Supreme Court fight looms over whether Chief Circuit Judge Jeffrey Colbath’s five month, 29-day contempt of court sentence against DeMartin is justified, attorneys for the 72-year-old retired Delray Beach accountant have asked the judge to reduce his sentence to the 37 days he already served at the Palm Beach County jail between January and March of 2014.

Assistant Public Defender Paul Petillo on Thursday filed paperwork asking for a reduced sentence for DeMartin, who landed in legal trouble after Goodman’s 2012 trial when he revealed he conducted a forbidden drinking experiment as a juror and later revealed he failed as a prospective juror to disclose that his ex-wife had once been arrested for DUI.

As a result, Colbath in 2013 overturned Goodman’s DUI manslaughter conviction and 16-year prison sentence in the Feb. 12, 2010 death of 23-year-old Scott Patrick Wilson. Another jury, selected from Tampa, convicted the polo club founder again in 2014 and he is now serving the 16-year sentence.

DeMartin as a result of the time he’s already spent in jail lost his  social security benefits temporarily, which caused him to lose his Delray Beach condo, Petillo said,. He now lives in a government subsidized apartment in Connecticut, but could lose that as well if Colbath sentences him to more prison time.

In a brief hearing Friday morning, Colbath told attorneys in the case that he will consider reducing DeMartin’s sentence and any other matters still up for discussion in the case, but DeMartin must return to Florida for a hearing he’s scheduled for June 3.

According to Petillo’s petition, DeMartin suffers from heart disease, is nearly blind, has short-term memory loss and is taking nearly a dozen medications that includes one used to trat Alzheimer’s patients. He pays $630 in rent a month and otherwise lives on $1,223 a month in social security, a $175 monthly annuity that will end when he is 75 and $37 a month in food stamps, Petillo said.

“He is poor by just about any standard, but with HUD-subsidized housing he is able to get by,” Petillo wrote. “If he temporarily loses his Social Security benefit, he will lose his apartment. If he can’t live with relatives, he will be homeless.”

John Goodman juror Dennis DeMartin’s case could be headed to high court

(Palm Beach Post staff file photo)
(Palm Beach Post staff file photo)

The case of the wayward juror held responsible for forcing a judge to throw out John Goodman’s DUI manslaughter conviction could soon be a matter for Florida’s Supreme Court.

Last week, on the heels of a 4th District Court of Appeal ruling affirming Dennis DeMartin’s contempt of court conviction and six month jail sentence, his lawyer filed a request to for them to send the case to Florida’s high court to address an issue the appellate court left unanswered.

“May a court sentence a defendant more harshly in order to ‘send a message’ to the community?” Assistant Public Defender Paul Petillo wants to ask the Supreme Court.

The question has been the center of the retired accountant’s appeal since January 2014, when Chief Circuit Judge Jeffrey Colbath sentenced the retired accountant to five months and 29 days in the Palm Beach County jail for a pair of missteps DeMartin had as a juror on the 2012 panel that convicted Goodman in the Feb. 12, 2010 death of Scott Patrick Wilson.

In two separate self-published books, DeMartin revealed he conducted his own, forbidden drinking experiment in the night before he and jurors began deliberating Goodman’s case and later disclosed that his ex-wife had once been arrested for DUI – a fact that prosecutors say would have surely kept him off the jury had he told them as required while he was a prospective juror.

Colbath when he sentenced DeMartin said he wanted to “send a message” to the community on the importance of honesty and integrity as jurors.

Petillo in his request to the appellate court last week reiterated his belief that it was improper for Colbath to base his sentence on that premise.

Assistant Attorney General Richard Valuntas, in a response filed Wednesday morning, said there’s nothing for the Supreme Court to consider because Colbath’s sentence was within the statutory limits.

“Nothing in the record shows appellant was actually sentenced more harshly in order to ‘send a message’ to the community,” Valuntas wrote, adding that courts in other jurisdictions have ruled that judges can use “the concept of general deterrence” when giving an offender a legal sentence.

Colbath cited DeMartin’s actions in 2013 as the reason he overturned Goodman’s first conviction and 16-year prison sentence. A second jury in October 2014 convicted Goodman again, and he is now in the second year of a 16-year sentence.

DeMartin now lives in New Haven, Connecticut, where he moved after serving a month of his sentence.