A 16-year-old boy who drunkenly killed four people got probation this week because the judge — with no apparent irony — agreed with the boy's defense that he was a victim of "affluenza," whose parents taught him wealth and privilege shield consequences. The teen had faced up to twenty years in prison.
Sixteen-year-old Ethan Couch admitted to four counts of manslaughter after he and seven other boys stole alcohol from Walmart, piled into his car and struck and killed four pedestrians while going 70 miles per hour in a 40 zone. One of his passengers remains in the hospital with severe brain damage, and nine other bystanders were also injured.
Couch's BAC was a .24 and he also had Valium in his system. According to reports, he was belligerent at the scene, at one point saying, "I'm outta here." Prosecutors were hoping to get up to 20 years.
Couch's defense was that he was a victim of his parents' wealth and privilege; in that he never had to face consequences, which an expert summarized prior to sentencing.
He said Couch got whatever he wanted. As an example, Miller said Couch's parents gave no punishment after police ticketed the then-15-year-old when he was found in a parked pickup with a passed out, undressed 14-year-old girl.
Miller also pointed out that Couch was allowed to drive at 13. He said the teen was emotionally flat and needed years of therapy. At the time of the fatal wreck, Couch had a blood alcohol content of .24, said Tarrant County Sheriff Dee Anderson. It is illegal for a minor to drive with any amount of alcohol in his or her system.
The victims' families sort of agree with the reasoning, in that they too feel that Couch's privilege helped him avoid consequences.
Couch is now being sent to a $500,000-a-year counseling center. There are apparently five civil wrongful death suits pending against him totaling tens of millions of dollars.
[image via Shutterstock]