A Palm Beach County sheriff’s deputy can proceed with her lawsuit, claiming she was unfairly disciplined by Sheriff Ric Bradshaw for simply telling the truth about a strange incident involving now-imprisoned Wellington polo mogul John Goodman, an appeals court ruled Wednesday.
The 4th District Court of Appeal rejected Bradshaw’s request to toss out the lawsuit filed by Deputy Bridgette Bott. She was one of Goodman’s security guards when he was on house arrest before he was convicted a second time of DUI manslaughter in the 2010 crash that killed 23-year-old Scott Wilson.
Bradshaw argued that Bott should have sought administrative relief before filing a lawsuit. The appeals court ruled that none was available.
In a lawsuit filed by attorney Sid Garcia, Bott claims she was unfairly docked 40 hours pay when she didn’t side with other deputies who said Goodman in 2012 tried to disable his ankle monitor while on house arrest. In addition, she claims she was banned from the lucrative security detail that Goodman was forced to bankroll as a condition of being allowed to stay out of jail.
Ultimately, Circuit Judge Jeffrey Colbath ruled that there was insufficient evidence that Goodman had tried to break the monitor and allowed him to remain on house arrest. Goodman, heir to a Texas air conditioning and heating business, is serving a 16-year prison sentence.
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.”
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.
The juror credited for derailing Wellington polo club founder John Goodman’s DUI manslaughter trial could be headed back to jail now that an appeals court has upheld his two contempt of court convictions.
In an eight-page decision released by Florida’s 4th District Court of Appeal Wednesday, the high court backed Chief Circuit Judge Jeffrey Colbath’s 2014 conviction and 6 month jail sentence against retired Boynton Beach accountant Dennis DeMartin. In a pair of self-published, DeMartin books revealed that he conducted his own drinking experiment at the end of Goodman’s 2012 trial and also withheld from the court as a prospective juror that his own ex-wife had once been arrested for DUI.
The missteps led Colbath to throw out Goodman’s conviction and 16-year prison sentence in the case tied to the death of 23-year-old Scott Patrick Wilson, who drowned in a Wellington canal after Goodman ran a stop sign while drunk and plowed his Bentley into Wilson’s Hyundai.
Reached by phone in New Haven, Conn. Wednesday, DeMartin said the decision has left him both stunned and confused.
“I’m shocked by the whole thing,” said DeMartin, who added he is very much afraid of having to go back to jail. “I don’t know what to do.”
DeMartin became the source of public ire in the aftermath of Goodman’s first trial, especially by those upset at the cost of bringing the Texas-born millionaire to trial again. The appellate court on Wednesday ruled that there was “substantial evidence” to support the contempt of court convictions.
“Our jury trial system depends on the complete candor of all jurors during voir dire,” Judge Spencer D. Levine wrote. “Our jury trial system also requires the strict adherence of all jurors to the instructions given to them by the trial judge.”
A second jury last year convicted Goodman again, and he is now a year into his 16-year sentence. In an appeal to DeMartin’s conviction filed last year, Assistant Public Defender Paul Petillo placed the blame for for the entire debacle on the local court system.
The accusations against DeMartin, he said, were “hyperbole.”
“If it did wreak havoc (and it didn’t), that’s only because the Palm Beach County justice system let itself get caught up in the fanfare of trying a wealthy defendant,” Petillo said in a petition filed Monday. “After all, the charge, though serious, was a DUI manslaughter, and probably a handful of those are tried every year in each circuit in this court’s jurisdiction.”
Goodman’s defense team immediately asked Colbath to throw out Goodman’s conviction after DeMartin revealed he drank three mixed vodka drinks and attempted to walk around his condominium complex the night before he and five other jurors began deliberating Goodman’s fate.
DeMartin in 2014 served a month of his six-month sentence before he was granted an appellate bond. He has been living in Connecticut since last year.
He said he found out his appeal had been rejected when he got a phone call from Petillo. THe attorney told him he had 15 days to appeal the court’s ruling, he said, but he doesn’t know how he would go about doing that.
When Colbath sentenced DeMartin at the end of a short trial, the judge had little sympathy for the 72-year-old. Though DeMartin’s pro-bono attorneys, Robert Gershman and Joseph Walsh, had pleaded with the judge to keep DeMartin out of jail, Colbath said he felt DeMartin deserved the punishment.
“If I found Mr. DeMartin to be a benign Mr. Magoo who was unaware of the destruction he left in his wake, then I would find differently. I don’t think that is the case,” Colbath said.