Texas teen wins freedom in deadly drunk driving case by arguing he was too wealthy for prison

Defense attorney claims boy who killed 4 people and critically injured two others in crash suffers from 'affluenza' — a condition that makes you too rich to understand that your actions have consequences.
MCT Regional News
Dec 22, 2013

Ethan Couch escaped with probation from his trial on four counts of intoxication manslaughter. But Tarrant County District Attorney Joe Shannon is apparently still working to put the Burleson teen behind bars.

Couch on Dec. 5 admitted he was guilty of causing the June 15 crash that killed Brian Jennings, Hollie Boyles, Shelby Boyles and Breanna Mitchell and critically injured teens Sergio Molina and Solimon Mohmand. Last week, District Judge Jean Boyd sentenced Couch to 10 years’ probation on four charges of intoxication manslaughter.

But Shannon said this week that no verdict has been entered on the two charges of intoxication assault Couch faced in connection with the injuries to Molina and Mohmand. The DA said his office will be asking the judge to sentence the teen to jail on both charges.

In a statement emailed Wednesday to the Times-Review, Shannon said, “During his recent trial, the 16-year-old admitted his guilt in four cases of intoxication manslaughter and two cases of intoxication assault. There has been no verdict formally entered in the two intoxication assault cases. Every case deserves a verdict. The District Attorney’s Office is asking the court to incarcerate the teen on the two intoxication assault cases. Due to limitations in the Family Code, we are unable to make additional comments.”

Under Texas juvenile law, the maximum sentence Couch faces on the two intoxication assault charges is three years in a Texas Juvenile Justice Department facility. He would have to be released when he turns 19. On the other end of the spectrum, the judge could choose to assess no punishment.

Boyd’s decision to sentence Couch — who, according to blood tests performed a few hours after the wreck, was about three times the legal limit of alcohol in his system — only to probation has sparked outrage around the world.

It has also prompted the Tarrant County DA to announce his intentions to push Texas lawmakers for changes in the juvenile justice system to prevent such light sentencing in future cases.

Also garnering international attention has been the assessment of a psychologist testifying for the defense that Couch and his parents suffered from “affluenza,” and have been cocooned against the consequences of their actions by their wealth. The possibility that Couch could be sent to an exclusive rehabilitation facility in California has raised ire, as well.

The rehab facility in Newport Beach offers yoga and cooking classes, horseback riding and access to the beach. It costs about $450,000 a year, a cost Couch’s father, Cleburne Sheet Metal owner Fred Couch, has agreed to pay.

According to WFAA.com, dating back to 1989, Fred Couch shows up 23 times in Johnson County police records. Included in the records are charges of criminal mischief, theft by check and assault. The cases were dismissed. Tonya Couch, divorced from Ethan’s father in 2007, was charged with reckless driving in 2003.

Ethan Couch remains in a Tarrant County juvenile detention facility while the juvenile probation prepares a report about possible treatment programs. If he violates his probation, he could be sent to prison for up to 10 years.

In addition to the still-pending criminal charges, Ethan Couch, his parents and his father’s company are named as defendants in five civil lawsuits stemming from the deadly crash. The families of all four of those killed in the crash and the families of Molina and Mohmand have filed lawsuits.

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By Tammye Nash - Cleburne Times-Review, Texas (MCT)

©2013 the Cleburne Times-Review (Cleburne, Texas)

Visit the Cleburne Times-Review (Cleburne, Texas) at www.cleburnetimesreview.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

Comments

mikeylikesit

if my family were the victims I would get justice with my rifle, bet on it.

Gone2work

I will offer the use of my weapon sir :)

Really are you ...

Is he a congressman's child? An oil baron's son? Son of a too big to fail bank CEO?

vicariouslyAlive

i like how you can be so rich that you're ignorance of the law and consequences is acceptable, but it's impossible to be too poor and uneducated to understand that your actions have consequences... funny how the system works.

AEversole

If this was justcan average kid and a normal family, he would definitely be in the Slammer... this is crazy.

Contango

Re: "five civil lawsuits stemming from the deadly crash."

IMO, a travesty of justice, but the families may get a piece of the family's "affluenza."

A poor kid should argue "poorfluenza."

Kingsin

I can just envision Lindsay Lohan in fits right now as she's firing her legal team.... "you mean to tell me that some podunk lawyers in jerkwater U.S.A. can get this kid off from killing four people-and the best you can do for me with my affluenzic condition is to get me rehab and a jail sentence hanging over my head?- you're all fired!! Psychiatrists and psychologists everywhere are scrambling to re-write their medical journals and wondering how they could have ever missed such an apparent condition which clearly affects millions! Of course their final prognosis will be that affluenza is a condition embedded deeply within the genes and that a person is naturally born that way! I"m calling for a 4.6 mil$ government study right away for establishing the emotional needs of these truly unique individuals, and whether they should be allowed to legally marry within our society!

thinkagain

lol!

Gone2work

Well said sir (or madam :)

Kingsin

Thank you. And it is Sir :) I find that the only way to respond to the ridiculousness of our world is with a little tongue-in-cheek humor, glad you enjoyed.

happyfeet64

There is already a psychiatric diagnosis in the DSM that covers this piece of crap, it's called sociopath. It has nothing to do with being rich, he just doesn't give a flying rats a**.

Warped

Someone should post this idiot's home address. Then let nature take it's course. I'm sure there are a few good ol Texas boys that would make the situation right.

rickross2

Listen to all the poor people mad at the rich kid! You got a chunk of the story here. Did you notice the only place his money was mentioned was in the comment leading to the article? Nowhere in the actual article was it mentioned. People Churching stuff up for comments and controversy. Gosh, you people are gullible.

rickross2

When I say you people, I mean poor people.

JudgeMeNot

~in America, there is one law for the rich and another for the poor~

Windy

Don't worry, once Obamacare is in full force, we will ALL be poor!

sorryhog

We need to change our judicial system!

Dr. Information

This is crazy. When I heard this last week I couldn't believe what I was hearing.

swiss family

I agree, it is time to revamp our justice system. It seems as though in our modern age, the thing that goes wrong in a trial, if the Human factor. Too many times, one or more of the jurors are influenced by the criminals wealth, fame, bad childhood even sometimes race or religion... those things should never be any part of the decision as to if a person is guilty or innocent.

I think it is now time to revamp our system, and have only the facts , fed into a computer, who can't see or hear the "fluff" that the regular jurors see and hear that gets their hearts bleeding, and then get a totally unfair verdict.It is time to lose the human factor, and to only allow the facts determine who is guilty and who is not.

rickross2

A computerized Jury? Dumbest idea ever.

rickross2

Word just in.....it was Ernie McCrackens son. His dad was right, he finally had enough money to buy his way out of anything.

Gone2work

This is one person, besides the judge that should be put in front of a firing squad. Are you f*&king serious! What a piece of crap and what a bang up job these parents did with this idiot. You will just have to hope that his punishment will be more severe later on down the road!

William Jeffers...

I guess the good news here is civil awards will be MUCH HIGHER with this lenient criminal verdict. Bye Bye "Affluenza", Hello "Crapfluenza" (which most of us live with everyday).