Texan teen given parole after mowing down four people while drunk – but his family is so wealthy he believed his actions had no consequences
A wealthy Texan teenager who mowed down and killed four pedestrians while driving drunk has been sentenced to 10 years’ probation at a private rehab centre, rather than 20 years in jail as prosecutors had demanded.
Critics of the lenient sentence are outraged not so much by the sentence itself, as by the defence’s apparently successful argument that 16-year-old Ethan Couch was a victim of “affluenza” – meaning his family is so wealthy, and he so entitled, that he believed his actions would have no consequences.
Psychologist Dr G Dick Miller testified that Couch, from Keller in Texas, had been raised in a household by indulgent parents who never established boundaries for his behaviour, giving him “freedoms no young person should have”. Dr Miller pointed to Couch’s parents’ decision not to punish him after he was found by police in a parked pick-up truck with an unconscious, undressed 14-year-old girl a year before the fatal accident.
Dr Miller recommended the boy undergo years of therapy away from his parents, as opposed to a prison sentence. Judge Jean Boyd, who presided over the case, agreed and ordered Couch to enrol in a private, $450,000-a-year rehabilitation centre in Newport Beach, California, for which his father will foot the bill. Speaking to the Associated Press, Florida psychologist Dr Gary Buffone described the defence’s claim of affluenza as “laughable”. He said, “Not only haven’t the parents set any consequences, but it’s being reinforced by the judge’s actions.”