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Lawyer says race promoter threatened him

Witness says Michael Goodwin, on trial in Mickey Thompson's slaying, was very angry.

November 15, 2006|John Spano | Times Staff Writer

A law professor said Tuesday that he bought a gun and a bulletproof vest after he was threatened by racing promoter Michael Goodwin, who is on trial for murder in the slaying of motor sports legend Mickey Thompson.

Jeffrey Coyne, a Duke University law school professor who was trustee for Goodwin's bankrupt business, testified that he hid his wife and five children after security guards said two men came looking for him at his downtown Los Angeles office building two hours after Thompson was shot dead in 1988.

The two men, who were never identified, asked a guard where they could find Coyne's car, which they accurately described as a red Corvette with a white top.

Coyne testified that when the guard demanded to know why, the men jumped into a car and sped out of the underground garage through an entrance.

Many witnesses have testified about how mercurial and threatening Goodwin was as a tough businessman promoting motor sports in Southern California. His rivalry with Thompson led first to their partnership, then to their falling out and eventually, authorities allege, to Goodwin's ordering the murders of Thompson and his wife, Trudy, outside their estate in the affluent San Gabriel Valley town of Bradbury.

Coyne was appointed to collect assets from Goodwin's bankrupt business and distribute them to creditors. The biggest creditor was Thompson, who had been awarded $514,000 in his lawsuit alleging that Goodwin had defrauded him in a joint venture.

Two weeks before the slayings, Coyne and Goodwin met in a law office.

"He was literally inches from me," Coyne said. "He looked me dead in the eye and with tremendous anger said, 'You better lighten up or things will get bad.' "

Coyne said he backed up, not believing what he had heard.

"If you ruin my life, I'll ruin yours," Goodwin said, according to Coyne.

The confrontation came, Coyne testified, after Coyne refused to pay Goodwin's wife $130,000 in assets she claimed for work performed, refused to pay $20,000 to Goodwin's parents, as he had demanded, and forced the seizure of Goodwin's Mercedes-Benz.

Coyne, who has served as trustee in more than 1,000 cases, said he concluded that Goodwin was fraudulently trying to move the business' assets to his wife to avoid paying the creditors.

Half a dozen witnesses have testified at the trial in Pasadena that Goodwin, who has been in jail five years awaiting trial, threatened Thompson, who held land speed records.

A second business associate of Goodwin's testified earlier Tuesday that he too had been threatened.

Greg Smith, manager of Anaheim Stadium at the time, said that six weeks before the Thompson murders, he was at a bankruptcy hearing involving Goodwin's business. The business held lucrative rights for January motor sports events at the stadium, which Smith was seeking to transfer.

Smith, a spectator, was sitting toward the back of the courtroom, when he heard someone speaking, he said.

"He made comments to the effect that, 'You don't know what you're doing to me. You'll be sorry for this. I'll be back.' "

At first Smith didn't think he was being spoken to, so he looked around. Smith said Goodwin was sitting directly behind him and no one else was nearby. Goodwin was "mad, confrontational, and very, very upset," Smith said.

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john.spano@latimes.com

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