Tarrant County, TX- The families of four people who were killed in June drunk driving accident by a wealthy teen are outraged that the judge bought his “affluenza” defense and won’t be spending years in jail.
Ethan Couch, 16, was three times the legal limit in late June when he caused the deadly accident, which Texas law enforcement officers have described as the most horrifying they have ever seen. Couch and several of his friends had been drinking a case a beer they had stolen from Walmart earlier that evening when they decided to go on another beer run. As the teens made their way down a dark highway Tarrant County, Couch’s truck violently slammed into three vehicles that were parked on the side of the road.
One of the vehicles had broken down and the driver 24 year-old Breanna Mitchell who had called a friend for assistance. Hollie Boyles, 52, and her daughter, Shelby Boyles, 21, drove aide Mitchell and parked their car behind hers.
As the three women were trying to figure out why Mitchell’s SUV had broken down, another motorist, Brian Jennings, a youth pastor at a local church stopped to help the women out. They were all standing outside of their vehicles when Couch’s truck first struck Jennings vehicle pushing it into the other vehicles. Couch’s truck then rolled over, throwing several boys out of the bed of the truck.
Both Boyles women, Jennings and Mitchell were struck and killed instantly. Two of the young men thrown from the truck were critically injured. One then Sergio Molina is still in a coma suffering from a brain injury and paralysis.
When police tested Couch’s blood alcohol level three hours after the accident, he registered a .024. He was charged with the four deaths and prosecutors asked for the maximum penalty of 20 years, but little did they expect for him to get no time behind bars.
Couch’s defense attorney said his parents were partly to blame for the deadly accident because they gave their son everything he wanted in life and he has never suffered the consequences for his actions, according to CNN.
One of the defense’s expert witnesses, a psychologist, said Couch was suffering from “affluenza.” He testified that Couch’s parents taught their son that money bought then privilege and believes Couch could turn his life around with therapy.
On Tuesday, a juvenile court judge sentenced Couch to 10 years of probation and said she would not release the teen to his parents; instead he will be sent to a long-term care facility in California which costs $450,000 a year. His father said he would pay for his son’s treatment.
The judge’s decision outraged the families of those who were killed and said Couch’s sentence was unjust.
“There are absolutely no consequences for what occurred that day,” said Eric Boyles, Hollie’s husband and Shelby’s father. “The primary message has to absolutely be that money and privilege can’t buy justice in this country.”
People are very critical of the judge’s sentence, insisting that poorer teens who can’t afford the best defense attorneys would be given long jail terms. Everyone deserves to defend themselves in court but who would ever think that a judge could buy the “affluenza” defense. All this judge did in this case was show this spoiled brat that his wealth exonerates him of any wrong-doing.