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]
468 comments
StanAbles
StanAbles

From my perspective Trump is a fraud pretending to be a Judea/Christian Constitutional Conservative, just like Romney, McCain, and George H Bush. Look at his record over the past 20 years and the truth will bear this out. He compromises with evil to advance his own agenda, married three times, supports corrupt politicians that he help put in office, he is master of crony capitalism that failed in business several times but left his investors holding the bag with his many bankruptcies, with his vulgar filthy mouth when someone has the audacity to disagree with him, is hardly a virtue you want in a world leader. He has all the attributes of a narcissistic control freak, who wants to manipulate and exploit other for his own selfish ego driven agenda.

BeckyAnnmarieCampbell
BeckyAnnmarieCampbell

And I'm sure he played "Grand Theft Auto" regularly.... In which your character can actually go to a strip club/bar, get drunk, stumble (literally) to his car, and run over ppl and hit cars and "get away with it". Something is seriously wrong here!! If they're going to place this kids actions on how the parents raised him then I think the parents should face some sort of consequence!! He will likely screw up again and he'll head to the pen at that point! Sad situation all around! My heart goes out to the families involved, may peace be with you!

Montesqueu
Montesqueu

Oh definitely if he was BLACK or HISPANIC the decision would have been totally different. I am guessing a MOB in Texas would have been initiated. Although what if there is a Black Wealthy family or a Wealthy Hispanic hummmm? maybe the story is different. I would like to see any comments?

ScottDill
ScottDill

Just a matter of time before he does it again

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

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.

wood4play
wood4play

The complexion for the protection.

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. 

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?

Bellesmomma
Bellesmomma

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

EvaJMiller
EvaJMiller

What about all the black that got away with destroying Ferguson ? I see black people in general being really racist in their thinking....for instance voting for a black man just because hes black, not caring what he stands for and that our country, has been ruined because of it !!!

EvaJMiller
EvaJMiller

Why are you turning this bratty kid case into a race case.. .every law abiding citizen detests what happened w this case

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.

EvaJMiller
EvaJMiller

Its not even anout race. Its about a totally spoiled rich family who dont care about right and wrong. .this is about total injustice of people that innocently died....turning this into race is taking away from what its really about.

MarlenePaulino
MarlenePaulino

Affirmative Action is blatantly racist and unfair as well, no one is arguing that. It doesn't take away from the fact that if this kid were black or Latino, things would most likely have went very differently

SeanTate
SeanTate

@EvaJMiller 

unemployent down,osama killed,universal healthcare,defecit cut almost in half, please let me know how he has destroyed this country. when i hear rhetoric like that, i cant help but to think youre mad that the minorities who have been put down so much are succeeding more, and you and whites like you want a monopoly on everything. trump says lets make this country grear again, it was only great for whites period. and now we have a president for everyone and not just for the caucasions, and you and people like you feel threatened.

SeanTate
SeanTate

@EvaJMiller 

i agree its about a rich kid, but a black rich kid would not get the same slap on the wrist, and you dont have to be a rocket science to see this. white people hate to admit there are double standards in this country, to do so will probably kill you inside. i think alot of you are dealing with guilt, and dont want to deal with it so you act as if everything is good, now granted things have changed for the good over the years due to alot good white people and good black people who care about the disenfranchised. i mean you got to admit, if this were a rich black or hispanic kid, it would be a totally different outcome.

SeanTate
SeanTate

@EvaJMiller 

i dont think anyone is making this a race thing, i think people are just apalled, and people who look like me cant help but to think if this was anyone who looks differently and maybe rich also, they would still be treated differently.