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]
415 comments
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. 

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".


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 !!!!!~

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.

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.  

JenNestegard
JenNestegard

What crap!!! This kid will NEVER be taught a lesson.....mommy and daddy and their money will be there to bail him out!!

LaDarkFae
LaDarkFae

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, the American justice system....

lebelly23
lebelly23

Look at these stupid Texas redneck's with their receding chins, and ignorant, selfish attitudes......not at all surprised. This entire state is racist, and favors those with money. If this kid would have been a poor, black child, you can bet your you know what, that the sentence would have been different. North Texas in particular is all about how affluent you are...I see these people from Dallas weekly, and it is a joke that we can spot them a mile away. They look like OC Housewives with big jewelry, big purses, big idiots.

They have no brains, no taste, and are taking up space, and breathing air that they do not deserve. Pathetic! Cannot wait to leave this sorry excuse for a state. Austin is the only city worth anything here in the not so great state of Texas. And the justice system? Hello? They shoot innocent people, their dogs, they incarcerate innocent people and are found to be corrupt. Look it up people! Shun these idiots. Have you seen the Ted Cruz coloring book? They are out of their minds people!

RealSeanJansen
RealSeanJansen

Everyone knows that this is a white man's country and we're just guests in it. The judges, lawyers, all those people looked at that kid as they would their own son. And of course, nobody wants to see their own son go to jail for even a day. There's a lot of things great about this country, as far as countries are concerned it is one of the greatest if not the greatest, but this sort of thing is just a reminder that we live in an imperfect world ruled by imperfect people, who will look out for their own interests first and fairness is just an afterthought. 

SybilRisenstein
SybilRisenstein

I just read where the parents both have records or charges that should have become records for about the same things that the son has, look them up !  No wonder the boy has been in and out of trouble.  Regardless he should have to pay for killing those people.  Like one person said " If you are old enough to get a drive you are old enough to be tried as an adult.' When the Judge agreed to try Him as an juvenile she opened the flood gates for all those in jail that was His age when they were sent to prison as adults to claim an unfair trial.!   I Don't know if the parents care for  the Boy!  They may both be just too shellfish, , impressed with their good fortune , too everything to really be in touch with the fact  that they have failed Him totally!  They as well as he needs to know how it feels to suffer the removal of freedom to do as you please, by him being given  proper jail or prison time to think about things he has done.

SybilRisenstein
SybilRisenstein

From the body language and expressions of this Rich Kids parents on National TV today they suffer from the same disease ( if you can call it a  disease) that the son does.  They all must feel above the Law, and think they are entitled!  I hope the Judge in this case gets thrown off the bench!  She must be paying a debt or getting paid off to rule as she did in this case.  I feel that the Kid has been paid off by the family 1 time too many, and it is time for him to pay for his reckless life style, regardless what caused it.  The Parents should have to learn a lesson about parenting by seeing Him do hard time for his actions!  I feel the State of Texas has used money to get out of trouble  far too many times and should get this woman off the bench and give a just sentence to this Spoiled Brat!!!

Anna888
Anna888

He never learned that sometimes you don’t get your way"- for sure he won't learn it from this judge!



LacyLeathers
LacyLeathers

wow.. No One is doing this kid any favors... it will just get worse!

LindaKFritsch
LindaKFritsch

this kid need to be placed in a rehab for soldiers and made to work his tail off seeing what the results of his actions can cause.  i am sure there is a paralized person who was hit by a drunk driver whose family could use respite help.  he should be trained and spend the next 10 years working in this type of atmosphere.  he parents are rich. -- let them pay for the funerals of the dead friends -- make them pay for funerals of 1 to 100 people who are killed by drunk drivers.  get them in the purse strings.  they will think twice before excusing him again in life. 

Bellesmomma
Bellesmomma

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

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.

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.

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 :)

Willard43
Willard43

@hobe57She announced after the sentencing that she was retiring.

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  

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!!!!!

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.

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..

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.

Liz2008
Liz2008

@lebelly23  No brains, taking up space, and breathing air they don't deserve....Honey you are talking about the dumb nig**** that take up our space. Those people are the ones who pay taxes so that people like you can sit on your ass and mooch off of the system. By the way Texas is swamped by black people. I use to live in Houston where the majority is black and guess what I saw there, a bunch of thugs with no respect for the law, robbing shooting and killing innocent people. This case is not about race its about getting justice for the lives that were lost to careless behavior. Take your stupid comments to the NAACP or someone who really cares about the mistreated black folk. Because guess what. No one here is listening to your pitty party. And for the record its the black folks that are taking up space and breathing air that is not deserved.

RogerCrow
RogerCrow

@lebelly23 I agree completely that justice was not served here and someone must pay...totally. Why I am responding to your statement is because you are way out of line for bringing any kind of racism or derogatory statements against the people of Texas into this argument. It serves only to take the focus off of the real problem and completely shifts it over to something unrelated. For the record, I don't know what color of skin the victims had, nor do I care. I only want justice for them no matter what color of skin was on them or the idiot who took their lives. STOP diverting the issue please! I'm sure there are more appropriate places you can discuss racism.

willypete67
willypete67

@lebelly23 What does this have to do with racism. Go spout your hate somewhere else, inbred!

willypete67
willypete67

@RealSeanJansen  So you are saying if he wasn't white he would have been punished real bad huh?

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