The Affluenza Defense: Judge Rules Rich Kid’s Rich Kid-ness Makes Him Not Liable for Deadly Drunk Driving Accident

He got 10 years probation for causing a wreck that devastated three families

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Ben Noey Jr. / The Fort Worth Star-Telegram / AP

Cars drive past the scene of a fatal wreck that killed four people in Burleson, Texas.

For most people, conviction for vehicular manslaughter due to drunk driving warrants a lengthy sentence, but not in the case of Ethan Couch, a wealthy young man from the state of Texas.

The Keller, Tex., 16-year-old has a rare condition that a judge believes is best remedied with anything but dealing with the consequences for causing a DWI wreck that killed four people, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported.

Couch suffers from “affluenza,” according to his lawyers, a term which means that his wealthy parents pretty much let him get away with everything. The defense saved him from a 20-year sentence; State District Judge Jean Boyd bought it at his sentencing on Tuesday and gave Couch probation instead.

“He never learned that sometimes you don’t get your way,” Gary Miller, a psychologist assigned to Couch said in court. “He had the cars and he had the money. He had freedoms that no young man would be able to handle.”

(MORE: The Co-Author of Affluenza: “I’m Appalled By the Ethan Couch Decision”)

The defense said this led to a rash of irresponsible behavior on the night of June 15 and ended in tragedy. The spree began with Couch stealing beer from a Walmart with his buddies, jumping into a pickup truck and smashing into a woman whose car broke down on a Burleson, Texas road, killing the woman, two people who lived nearby and came to help, and a passerby.

Court testimony revealed that Couch’s blood alcohol level was three times the legal limit. He also admitted being drunk while driving and losing control of his Ford F-150.

He pleaded guilty to four counts of manslaughter by intoxication and two counts of assault by intoxication causing bodily injury. Two teens in the bed of the truck were seriously  injured, and one cannot move or talk.

(MORE“Affluenza” is Junk Science, Says Psychologist)

Texas sentencing guidelines for crimes like this call for fines of up to $10,000 and between 2 and 20 years in the state penitentiary. But instead Couch got 10 years of probation and zero time. If he slips up he could go to jail for 10 years, according to a statement from the Tarrant County District Attorney.

Defense attorney Scott Brown praised Boyd’s decision: “She fashioned a sentence that could have him under the thumb of the justice system for the next 10 years,” he said.

Eric Boyles, who lost his wife and daughter Holly and Shelby in the crash said it was Couch’s wealth that kept him from a harsher sentence.

“Ultimately today, I felt that money did prevail,” he told the Star-Telegram after the sentencing. “If [he] had been any other youth, I feel like the circumstances would have been different.”

[Star-Telegram]
436 comments
JodiPaulLeben
JodiPaulLeben

Ridiculous!! Get rid of that judge!! The only way this kid will learn is by being made accountable to his actions, even if they do suck. 

micheledio
micheledio

This is downright pathetic and criminal...on behalf of the judge. She is as irresponsible and incompetent and the little rich chump's parents. Maybe more so.

DavisKyle
DavisKyle

You cant believe it? I can. money talks and rich kids walk! Doesn't even surprise me at all!

JGlassey
JGlassey

Can't believe he only got probation. Meanwhile, other kids are 'kidnapped' (with their parents permission) and taken to rehabilitation boot camps, or sent to privately run, hell hole juvenile detention prisons for crimes as petty as smoking a joint or getting into a fight at school.

No compassion shown for all those thousands of poor, abused kids. This kid actually deserves to be put in a place like that.

Topher1
Topher1

I am staggered at the lack of justice in this case...this boy needs a good thrashing to teach him 'consequences' of his actions, and at least 15 years imprisonment. The people he killed have no life, their families nothing but anguish, and now the frustration of lack of justice. He is not one of the 1%, his father has a bit of money and thinks they are above the law, both of his parents are lawbreakers, they are just trash, end of. He's as ugly inside as outside, he committed murder in effect, and needs to be shown that his actions are not going to go unpunished, and that he cannot buy himself out of it. The judge should also be shown the consequences of her actions, and dismissed.

wood4play
wood4play

The complexion for the protection.

wood4play
wood4play

People who are talking about blacks are racist completely do not comprehend what is Racism. It is the systematic and application of laws, norms, economics, teachings such that one "race" gains undue advantage. How many whites feel they ar inherently superior because they are white? Society was institutionalized such that this is the common belief by many whites, but of course, some of these very same whites will say I see everyone equallyor rather everyone should he treated equally. It's well and good but that underlying belief in superiority influences how we interact, the fact that this kid was white coupled with being rich absolutely influenced how this judge ruled. His complexion instantly gives him the benefit of the doubt factor that this kid isn't normally a destructive force to society. The fact that he's rich gives him he will grow out if it and will by virtue of his richness become a productive member of society, so let's not send him to jail with all those bad eggs. The thought that he should be punished for his crime will get lost in the evaluation, now if he was black... Lol! Now with this said whites have this idea that racism is about calling someone a nigg er, or whatever it is they feel is this individualized personal racist action that blacks subjects whites too??? I don't even know when the ridiculous argument started but let's assume it's true, it is nothing in comparison to institutionalized and systematic racism starting from the colonial period until today, the ramafications of which will be felt for centuries. It's why the law reacts to a black defendent entirely different from a white defendant. And this isn't me guessing it's been studied when a black or white are charged with the same crime, even holding socio economic status as a constant, the black defendant is more often convicted, and when both are convicted more than 7 times as likely to get a longer sentence.

It's why a cop is far quicker to use violence vs a black than white, or why he will talk to white individual with a different level of respect, or why a white cop is far more likely to believed if a defendant is black vs a white. The fact is most whites aren't even aware because they believe they are superior, either smarter, more hard working, etc... It doesn't even occur to them that this is very definition of racism. And society has been structured around this belief and to ensure these advantages. Wrong or right this is the world we live in and the sooner people acknowledge it, the sooner it will change. But creating this false equivalence needs to stop.

JGlassey
JGlassey

@wood4play  Depends on where you live. In middle class NJ suburbs, like where I live, the cops treat everyone like criminals, no matter what color you are.

JosephDavis
JosephDavis

His family may have bought him out this one, but they cannot rid themselves from this bought and paid for tragedy. That will be a part of their lives forever. So sad for the other families lost.

MichaelGreer
MichaelGreer

How is this possible? "Affluenza" is not a recognized legal defense (or mitigation of sentence) in any jurisdiction, Texas included.  I should know.  I graduated valedictorian from a top law school and have practiced law for 20 years.  This "affluenza" defense is simply and completely irrelevant - just as would be the employment performance/recognition of a discrimination plaintiff suing to show that a "last hired, first fired" policy of an employer under a consent decree accused of racial discrimination.  This is just another situation of something that is viscerally or tangentially (but not legally) related, but at closer examination is nothing more than a red herring. 

lucysgrandaughter
lucysgrandaughter

@MichaelGreer  Taking into consideration the fact that this defence does not exist and the punishment was 'invented', Can't this sentence be appealed? Perhaps all the way to the Supreme Court? 

ShawnaWaisath
ShawnaWaisath

I think the sentence he got is a bunch of BS! He should have to serve the time than anyone that's not rich does.. Affluenza my ass! I believe the kid knew it was wrong to drink and drive, but doesn't want to take responsibility! His ass should be locked in a prison cell for the next 20 years.

StephanieScottProffitt
StephanieScottProffitt

So sad I only wish the other family's peace I pray they find some comfort and God will prevail !

SubramanianVenkatraman
SubramanianVenkatraman

I am rolling on the floor laughing at our sense of justice. We can as well scrap all laws and leave everything to the discretion of judges! We already have the world mocking at our (1) plea-bargaining methods; (2) how our 'highly respected specialist' witnesses blow up the tiniest of evidence; (3) highly paid lawyers browbeat witnesses to submission; (4) court room dramas / prejudiced reporting on them / discussion on on-going cases by opinionated personalities in talk shows. Now this has been added to the list.  

socialjustice2014
socialjustice2014

Whoever says this case has nothing to do with race is completely ignorant. You all know very well if this were a BLACK or LATINO or any other color other than white defendant, with the same amount of money, he still would not have gotten away with killing 4 people in a drunk driving accident. Especially in the state of Texas. Saying that this kid deserves more than a slap on the wrist does not compare to the punishment he deserves. Y'all white people are so oblivious to your privilege in this racist country that you're letting these things slip by. 

hooksj13
hooksj13

@socialjustice2014 I am a "white" male and I see this is wrong as well as many other "white" people do. For this kid to get off is a severe breach in the Justice system. But, to say this is based on racism is totally and completely ignorant. People of color are constantly using the racism excuse, and trying to tag racism on to every thing that happens. Racism in this country does happen i will admit that but for you to blatantly say here that it is only "White" people that are racist and that "Y'all white people are so oblivious to your privilege in this racist country that you're letting these things slip by." shows your ignorance in itself. Did you know that African American students can get into college with a lower ACT or SAT score than a Caucasian? Did you also know that they can get a full tuition with lets say a 25 on their ACT where as a Caucasian student would have to get around a 30 in order to get a full tuition scholarship. That is just one example and there are many more than that. So to say that in this day and age racism only runs one way is a sever show of ignorance and I recommend you check yourself before using it again.

Bellesmomma
Bellesmomma

I have two words for you...O.J. SIMPSON!!!!!

RoseMisty
RoseMisty

@hooksj13 @socialjustice2014 that same judge sent away a black teen for  ten years for a FAR lesser crime yeha but it doesnt have race or anything and you might want to use an example that shows to crime not collage

Oj-theGucci-ManOlumese
Oj-theGucci-ManOlumese

@Bellesmomma Oj Simpson is the few once you know. That was a high profile case with a celebrity , Name more case of Blacks getting a slap on the face for Murder and i will name a thousand and one case involving whites who are not celeb just mid class compare to blacks. Race is still  a big issue that divides these country. Blacks Americans  are also racist too but compare to White Americans The Number is infinito. 

Oj-theGucci-ManOlumese
Oj-theGucci-ManOlumese

@hooksj13 @socialjustice2014 I get your point but to say people of color are using racism as an excuse is far from it, Racism goes both ways but white Americans are more racist than blacks and they get things in flavor of them more than any race(Mostly Blacks) In regards to the College fact you brought up Black Americans get those flavor mostly because of the college gap between Caucasian, also because They are more Caucasian who are richer and Mid-class than Black Americans. They(White) can get tutors and private lessons.Whites can afford  good schools more  than Black Americans who cant offer to pay for a good school and extra Tutors and lessons. Those Things give white kids more advantage in terms of GPA and been Intelligent. Single Mothers rising Most Black Americans can  also affect their reading,writing,Maths ability more than Whites who rise their kids with Both Parents. Compare Whites even Asia Americans education ability to that of Africans Immigrant(those from Mother land)  and see the differences in terms of GPA and Education achievement. Study shows African Immigrates mostly Nigerians do well in school more than White and their Asians counterpart. Nigerians are far more Educated than Caucasian,Asians in America.

RachelLeighTucker
RachelLeighTucker

@hooksj13 The man never said racism only runs one way.  He clearly said that if this was a boy of color with the same amount of money he would have gotten a hell of a lot worse than this.  Its naïve to think otherwise.  His last sentence was ignorant but the rest was very legitimate.  Bringing up your SAT statistics was quite irrelevant though in regards to this particular article. 

RachelLeighTucker
RachelLeighTucker

@Bellesmomma  That wasn't because he was just some rich black guy.  It was because he was a beloved celebrity.  So whats your point?

DeeEmVee
DeeEmVee

So because he's been able to get away scott free with everything his entire life...this "judge" (I use the term lightly) has decided to punish him by letting him get away with four murders - makes total sense.

tink57
tink57

The boy, his parents & the judge will have the ultimate judgment when they go to meet their maker.  I don't think any of them will wiggle out of His justice!

tink57
tink57

This is just one of the reasons I left Texas....because money is what drives the State!

tink57
tink57

The parents should do the jail time if the kid isn't responsible because his parents gave him too much!  The judge has reiterated to this young man that he is "untouchable".  AND he knows it...just look at the smirk on his face as he leaves the courtroom.  A travesty of justice!

BrooklynBoxer
BrooklynBoxer

Are you rich?  If you are you can get away with murder.  The kid's day is coming ...... 

LauraJLopez
LauraJLopez

wrong !

petition the white house !!! i have read cases way less severe then this and the person who they THINK was DRIVING got 14 YEARS !!!!!

OR Matthew Cordle (because i said i would confession ) got 6 YEARS

how the hell is this kid getting away with murder ! or how about this TEXAS LAW

49.08. INTOXICATION MANSLAUGHTER. (a) A person commits
an offense if the person:
(1) operates a motor vehicle in a public place,
operates an aircraft, a watercraft, or an amusement ride, or
assembles a mobile amusement ride; and
(2) is intoxicated and by reason of that intoxication
causes the death of another by accident or mistake.
(b) An offense under this section is a felony of the second
degree.

12.33. SECOND DEGREE FELONY PUNISHMENT. (a) An
individual adjudged guilty of a felony of the second degree shall be
punished by imprisonment in the institutional division for any term
of not more than 20 years or less than 2 years.
(b) In addition to imprisonment, an individual adjudged
guilty of a felony of the second degree may be punished by a fine not
to exceed $10,000.

And people wonder why America is going to S*#t!!!

Prayers to the familys that were affected by this

othersonia
othersonia

Don't be surprised if the kid turns up mysteriously dead in a year or two, or three. There are a lot of angry people out there who are tired of b.s. and love justice and own nice guns.

MikeCovington
MikeCovington

At least sue the parents for wrongful death. Cure them of this deadly case of "affluenza".


RogerCrow
RogerCrow

@MikeCovington my thoughts exactly. If he's not responsible, then who is? He's a minor spoiled by his parents, then they're responsible. Somebody has to pay here or there's no justice in our system whatsoever and it needs to be thrown out and replaced with something that makes sense. Sue the parents!! Start with the best attorney/firm available, you can be sure they will have the best defense attorney already.

WhiteyGunnz
WhiteyGunnz

THE VICTIMS FAMILIES SHOULD GET TOGETHER AND KILL THE JUDGE, THE DRUNKEN KID, AND THE DRUNKEN KIDS PARENTS, THEN PEOPLE WILL LEARN !!!!! THAT JUDGE IS SMOKING CRACK TOO !!!!!~

kmarvelus
kmarvelus

@WhiteyGunnz you are right on the money if this was any one of my kids texas would look like a butcher shop..

when the law fail  DONT BE AFRAID TO KILL

texasQT
texasQT

This is a judge on take.  I don't care that judge's take an oath, they are just as crooked as the next greedy guy.  Unbelievable.  If the blame is on the parent's for "spoiling" and that is a "judge's" ruling (?) then impose the sentence on the parents.  Shame on the judge, shame on the parents for bailing this kid out (once again right!).

45K3H
45K3H

The families of those that this out of control chid should be held accountable and a law suite filed to get the boys and the parents full attention. What are the guide lines here, the judge who did this needs to be held accountable. The rich kids need to held accountble, Killed 4 pepole and walking the streets with 10 years probation, Come Texas what is wrong with this picture??This child needs too met up with Buba.

45K3H
45K3H

Now how is it that this child can get away with manslaughter, death of 4 pepole,  under age driking, and DWI, his parents need to held accountable for his actions and watch his butt go to jail. America this boy needs to be taken off the streets. If the courts will not hold him accountable hold the parents and the courts accountable. This needs to start now too let them know that his behavoir will not be tollerated.

hobe57
hobe57

I want to know what is going to happen to this judge Jean Boyd/  She did not follow the guidelines and give him the 2 to 10 years required for this crime.  Why has no one looked into her background and her past decisions.   she did not have to accept this ridiculous defense and should be fired.

Willard43
Willard43

@hobe57She announced after the sentencing that she was retiring.

RogerCrow
RogerCrow

@hobe57 I agree...whenever there is an obvious mis-handling of justice, as is the case here, there should be a mandatory investigation into the judge's personal background, finances, habits, etc to see if any laws were broken (i.e. Bribes, pay offs, blackmail, campaign contributions, threats, the list goes on...) - This case should prompt action to be taken by the state legislature, but I'm sure nothing will happen unless enough people raise such a stink about it that they are forced to do something to change the system.

jojoloko84
jojoloko84

@hobe57She's a woman! (Enter sexist comment here) Maybe some 'Law Abiding Citizen' Justice is needed :)

eldentrilee
eldentrilee

People need to give this guy a break.  He didn't try to run away from the crimes.  He pleaded GUILTY to all of the charges.  It is his PARENTS and his DEFENSE who argued for a lenient sentence due to Affluenza.  They didn't say that he was innocent due to affluenza, just that they hoped that the judge would be lenient with the boy because of it.  The boy got an appropriate sentence and I believe that more people should get lenient sentences for pleading guilty because the reality is that pleading innocent will 99% of the time get you a lighter sentence than pleading guilty.  He didn't dishonor the victims by saying "I didn't do it" and so the victims families should stop trying to burn him at the stake when he was clearly remorseful for what happened.  Putting him in jail isn't going to help this kid get better.  

flamingogiver
flamingogiver

@eldentrilee Sometimes apologies aren't enough, especially for the death of 4 victims ! 4VICTIMS ! One of those victims was someone young, with a whole life ahead of her. We are all human, and we all make mistakes. But a mistake that took 4 innocent lives because of a unwise decision surely needs punishment. Letting this kid go and sending him to Cali in a nice rehab home while the families of those who died mourn for the death of their love ones is like sending a big " HA! In your face" to those families.

RogerCrow
RogerCrow

@eldentrilee Somebody MUST pay here, that's a no-brainer. If the kid isn't responsible for his actions, then who is? His parents you say? Then make them pay...out the nose with every penny to their names. Otherwise, are we saying that no one including the parents are responsible? If we have that big of a loophole in our justice system, so big you could drive a truck through, then we need to change the system NOW!!!!!

LauraJLopez
LauraJLopez

@eldentrilee i kinda agree .. except the big problem here is they only helped teach this kid that money can get him out of anything even intoxicated murder .... least they they could have done was put him in jail for robbing walmart ! That was no accident ... he didnt walk in and ops forgot to pay .... 

and if this is the right punishment .. then every other case in the us that involves dui and death with people who pled guilty should be let out of jail too right ? 

this is wrong  

aksstan1
aksstan1

@eldentrilee This comment would have looked..soooooo... beautiful.... If that guy would have killed ur mother;father; child or ur whole family .....then accepted his crime..... & u would have said the same then......I would have bowed on ur feet then.... that day should come soon so ...u can forgive the person who killed ur family only after listening his sorry..

MichelleAnderson
MichelleAnderson

@eldentrilee, YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING !!!!  This 16 year old received the same 'leniency' he has become accustomed to.  He is a spoiled brat, menace to society and should be in prison.  Do you really think a slap on the wrist is sufficient punishment for 4 dead people and another who is unable to 'move or talk'. What if 'the boy' had killed or maimed a member of your family or friend?  I daresay nothing is 'going to help this kid get better' -- until someone teaches him a lesson or two.  I am a native TEXAN and disgusted by this gross miscarriage of justice.