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.
During a brief hearing on Friday, Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Jeffrey Colbath sentenced former Delray Beach resident Dennis DeMartin to 37 days in jail – the time the 72-year-old has already served – and sent him home to hopefully live the rest of his life in obscurity. He could have ordered DeMartin back to jail to complete a five-month, 29-day sentence.
“Thank God it’s over with,” a tearful DeMartin said as he was led from the courtroom by his son. “It’s been a terrible five years. I’m so happy it’s over with.”
At the hearing, DeMartin, who conducted a drinking experiment to discover for himself whether Goodman was drunk in the 2010 crash that killed 23-year-old Scott Wilson and lied about an ex-wife’s DUI arrest, apologized for his actions. He revealed his misdeeds in a series of self-published books.
“Simply put, this was a terrible tragedy I caused by being a juror on this case,” he said, his hands shaking as he read from a prepared statement. “I should never have been a juror. I was not a good juror.”
He concluded: “I feel sincerely sorry for what happened.”
Colbath accepted DeMartin’s apology. “I think you finally get it,” Colbath said.
“Maybe you don’t have a full appreciation of the carnage you caused the system,” he said.
DeMartin’s actions forced Colbath to throw out Goodman’s conviction and 16-year prison sentence. Fearing he couldn’t find jurors in Palm Beach County who hadn’t read about the case that snared national headlines, Colbath went to Tampa to pick jurors for the second trial in 2014. Those jurors were sequestered at the PGA National Resort for the roughly three-week trial, costing taxpayers about $54,000. Goodman was ultimately convicted a second time and handed the same sentence.
“I haven’t put a fine point to it but I’m confident (the cost) was in the hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Colbath said. “It was a huge undertaking because you refused to follow simple directions.”
But, he said, given DeMartin’s failing health, “I am persuaded you would be a burden on our criminal justice system.”
DeMartin was released from jail while the 4th District Court of Appeal considered whether Colbath’s sentence was appropriate. The appeals court recently upheld it, prompting Friday’s hearing.
In addition to citing DeMartin’s health problems, his attorney Paul Petillo pointed out that the six-month term far exceeded an eight-day sentence Palm Beach Circuit Judge Krista Marx handed another misbehaving juror last week.
Philip Elliott, who was released Thursday, said he encouraged a fellow juror to lie about what jurors did during a trial to help her overturn a first-degree murder conviction. Elliott, who said he was smitten by the female juror, forced Marx to order a third trial for Victor Salastier Diaz for his role in the shooting death of a bystander in the 2007 robbery of Three Amigos market in suburban Boynton Beach.
Colbath made no reference to Marx’s decision, instead focusing on the cost DeMartin heaped on the court system and the added grief he caused Wilson’s family.
Colbath said he had only one regret. “If you were a man of means I’d figure out a way to make you pay” for the costs of trying Goodman a second time, he said.
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.