'Affluenza' Springs Teen in Fatal DWI in Texas
FORT WORTH (CN) - A Texas judge believed a teenager's "affluenza" defense regarding the drunken driving deaths of four people and sentenced him to only probation, outraging the victims' family.
Judge Jean Boyd sentenced Ethan Couch, 16, to 10 years' probation and therapy on Tuesday, WFAA-TV reported. He faced up to 20 years in state prison.
On June 15, Couch was drunk when his truck struck several people on the side of a road in south Fort Worth. Four died, including mother and daughter Hollie and Shelby Boyles, youth pastor Brian Jennings and Breanna Mitchell. Nine others were seriously injured.
Couch was speeding at up to 70 miles-per-hour in a 40 mph zone and his blood alcohol content was at 0.24 at the time of the wreck, according to Tarrant County Sheriff Dee Anderson. This is three times the legal limit of .08 for an adult. For minors, it is against the law to drive with any alcohol in his or her system.
During the trial, defense psychologist Dr. G. Dick Miller testified Couch is the product of "affluenza," where his family allegedly felt wealth bought privilege and that there was no rational link between behavior and consequences. Miller testified that Couch's parents gave him "freedoms no young person should have."
Miller cited Couch's parents failing to punish the boy after he was ticketed by police after being found with an undressed and passed out 14-year-old girl in his truck. He testified that Couch was allowed to drive when he was 13 years old.
During sentencing, Boyd told Couch that he is responsible for the deaths, but that she believed he would not receive the therapy he needs in jail. Defense attorneys asked that Couch be sent to for intensive one-on-one therapy at a private home in California and that Couch's father would pay the $450,000 cost.
Marla Mitchell, Breanna's mother, told WFAA after sentencing that she was "mad" about the sentence.
"He'll be feeling the hand of God, definitely," she told the television station. "He may think he got away with something, but he hasn't gotten away with anything."
Alex Lumas, brother of a man paralyzed in the accident, said the sentence was "not right."