FORT WORTH, Texas (CN) – “Affluenza” killer Ethan Couch was released from a Texas jail Monday, five years after he killed four people while driving drunk as a juvenile and two years after being imprisoned for violating parole by fleeing to Mexico.
Couch, 20, wore a blue shirt and black hoodie as he was led out of the Tarrant County Corrections Center by his attorneys, Scott Brown and Reagan Wynne, in downtown Fort Worth. Couch was silent as he was surrounded by a large scrum of reporters while news helicopters swarmed overhead.
Couch first made headlines in 2013 as a 16-year-old when former Tarrant County Judge Jean Boyd sentenced him to only 10 years probation and therapy for driving a truck into a crowd of people assisting a stranded vehicle on the side of a road in south Fort Worth. He had faced up to 20 years in state prison on manslaughter charges.
He killed mother and daughter Hollie and Shelby Boyles, youth pastor Brian Jennings and Breanna Mitchell, while seriously injuring several others.
A defense psychologist testified at trial that Couch was the product of “affluenza,” that his family felt their wealth bought privilege and that there was no rational connection between behavior and consequences.
Couch made news again in 2015 when a damning video appeared on social medial showing someone closely resembling him at a beer pong game, which would have been a juvenile parole violation since he was banned from drinking alcohol.
He and his mother, Tonya Couch, were arrested in Puerto Vallarta in December 2015.
She is currently held in the same county jail, awaiting a May trial on charges of money laundering and hindering the apprehension of a fugitive.
Ethan’s father, Fred Couch, was sentenced in December 2016 to one year of probation for impersonating a police officer in an unrelated incident with police in the suburb of North Richland Hills.
Upon deportation from Mexico in 2016, Couch was transferred to adult criminal court and he was sentenced to 180 days in county jail for each of the four people he killed – the maximum sentence allowed under the conditions of his parole. A subsequent appeal of his sentence to the Texas Supreme Court was rejected in April 2017.
Couch will now serve six years of probation, his attorneys said.
“From the beginning, Ethan has admitted his conduct, accepted responsibility for his actions, and felt true remorse for the terrible consequences of those actions,” they said in a written statement. “Now, nearly five years after this horrific event, Ethan does not wish to draw attention to himself.”
Couch is required to wear an alcohol monitor and must stay home between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. every day. He must also subject himself to monitoring by a substance abuse patch and drug testing and is banned from driving a car without camera-equipped ignition locks, according to a court filing.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving said the conditions of Couch’s parole are of “small consolation” regarding the victims of the tragedy.
“Two years in jail for four people killed is a grave injustice to the victims and their families who have been dealt life sentences because of one person’s devastating decision to drink and drive,” MADD said in a written statement. “The 720 days Ethan Couch served for his crimes shows that drunk driving homicides still aren’t treated as the violent crimes that they are.”