Outcry as businessman gets work-release after 7 DUIs, car crash

Posted at 7:22 AM, May 22, 2014
and last updated 2014-05-22 07:22:40-04

OLYMPIA, Washington (CNN) — Joseph Shaun Goodman’s seventh arrest for DUI was as sensational as it gets.

Police chased him in his Ferrari at more than 90 mph in downtown Olympia, Washington. A passenger, whom Goodman had just met at a bar, begged to leave the car, and his wish was granted while the car slowed.

Goodman crashed his sports car, a 2000 model worth $70,000, into a house and two cars.

The tall, tan businessman was finally arrested behind the wheel in a church parking lot with police drawing their guns on him just before midnight December 29. Cops noted his watery, bloodshot eyes and smelled alcohol on his breath.

Now there’s a local uproar over how Goodman, 42, avoided hard jail time — despite facing his seventh drunk-driving offense and with his blood alcohol measuring 0.16, twice Washington state’s threshold for DUI.

Goodman was given 364 days of work-release from jail because, a judge ruled, jailing him would harm his small business, his employees and the community. Under work-release, he spends his days as a free man at his telecommunications business, but he spends his weeknights and weekends in jail, his attorney said.

But critics such as Sam Miller are outraged.

“It seems like Shaun Goodman and other people that are wealthy are playing by a different set of rules,” Miller said. “I think it’s also that he’s a business owner in this town and that society sees Shaun Goodman more important than anyone else.

“I think Shaun Goodman, when he got his fourth DUI charge or fifth DUI charge, should have faced stiffer penalties then,” Miller added. “In a way, it’s almost society has said that ‘if you’re rich, it’s OK to do this. You need another chance. I’m sure you’ll turn it around’ — as if those who are wealthy have more of an ability to change than those that are poor.”

In February, a judge even gave Goodman permission to travel to New York and attend the Super Bowl while his case was being adjudicated, said Paul Strophy, the attorney for Goodman.

The defense

Goodman declined to comment, but Strophy said his client “did not receive special treatment.” The size of Goodman’s wealth wasn’t immediately available, but his house is a 3-acre gated property, with a boat on a trailer on the driveway to a separate three-car garage.

“It is a benefit to society in the bigger picture, even though I can understand the outrage, but there’s also a big cost to society in terms of not just the cost of incarceration,” Strophy said. “There’s definitely a benefit to society allowing people even such as Mr. Goodman to do work release when they’re serving a jail sentence.

“It gives them means to support themselves, their families, and in Mr. Goodman’s case, because he’s an employer, employees keep their jobs,” the attorney added.

Goodman received the maximum allowed by law for misdemeanor DUI, Strophy said.

Some argue that a seventh DUI should have made Goodman eligible for a felony — and a tougher maximum sentence.

But Washington state law doesn’t allow for such a felony because Goodman didn’t accumulate four DUIs in the past 10 years, Strophy said. The prior misdemeanor DUI accusations occurred in 1993, 1994, 1999, 2004, 2006 and 2011, and two of them — in 1999 and 2004 — were reduced to lesser misdemeanors, according to court papers.

“I know a lot of people believe it should have been at felony level,” Strophy said. “Under Washington law, the work-release program is still considered a jail program because you do spend your evenings and weekends in the jail, and so you only get out to work. And so based on that, he did in fact get the maximum sentence allowed by law.”

The prosecutor

Thurston County Prosecuting Attorney Jon Tunheim disputed accusations that Goodman got a lenient sentence because he’s wealthy.

“There was no favoritism allowed here,” the prosecutor said. “The gut reaction is to want to punish him more than other offenders because of the fact that he had money, and we’re not going to do that, either. We’re going to treat him the same as we would treat any other offender.

“I think if you can keep somebody working while they’re in custody — so they’re working while they’re out of custody — substantially reduces the likelihood that they would re-offend, particularly when you’re talking about someone who is an alcoholic or a drug addict,” Tunheim said. “I think you got to set emotion aside and really think about what is the best long term solution for the community.”

The defense attorney and the prosecutor acknowledged how some people may express frustration over what protesters contend is an overly lenient justice system toward Goodman. Both attorneys cited the way that the state law is written for such cases as Goodman’s: It doesn’t allow for harsher sentences.

But Goodman is remorseful, Strophy said.

“He acknowledges and understands the gravity of the situation and how serious it is,” Strophy said. “Every indication to me is that he’s given is that he wants treatment and will continue to do treatment and do everything to conquer that demon” of alcoholism, he said.

The passenger

Henry Griffin, 28, of Olympia met Goodman at a local tavern, where Goodman was flashing $100 bills and buying drinks for people. Griffin was treated to a Fireball, a cinnamon whiskey.

“I had known him less than an hour, and he said, ‘Hey, do you want to ride with me?’ And I said yeah,” Griffin said. “I was just like, wow, yeah, it’s a Ferrari. I had never been in a Ferrari before.”

They were headed to another saloon.

“As we leave the parking lot, he’s already speeding, and there’s a police officer right there, and he tries to pull us over,” Griffin said. “We go maybe a half a block, and I’m noticing something is wrong. And I’m like, hey, can we please pull over? The cops are here … and he immediately blurts he can’t.”

Griffin begged. He even screamed.

“First thing that comes out of my mind, ‘I have a son; I have a 2-year-old son. Please let me out!’ ” Griffin recounted.

He thought he was going to die. He couldn’t find the interior handle to open the door.

“I figured, hey, I’m going to die here tonight. I’m going to die in this car. This is a small car; I’m a big guy; I’m going to die,” Griffin said.

Griffin grabbed the wheel while Goodman was driving. The car slowed.

Then Griffin jumped out of the Ferrari. He called 911.

Griffin says he’s still traumatized by the experience: He sees a psychologist weekly and a chiropractor three times a week. When he can get sleep, he dreams of the ride all over again, he said. He can’t stand or sit for a long period of time.

Goodman has never apologized to him, and Griffin feels the court let Goodman off easy.

“It’s just sad to feel forgotten by the justice system,” Griffin said. “They’re not worried about the people.”

CNN’s Dan Simon and Augie Martin reported from Washington state.

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