Drunk teen sentenced to probation for fatal wreck thanks to 'affluenza'

Defense lawyers for Ethan Couch said he suffered from "affluenza" thanks to his privileged upbringing, and his parents deserve some fault for the drunk driving crash that killed four.

By Gabrielle Levy

Dec. 12 (UPI) -- A Texas community is outraged after a teen who crashed his car while driving drunk, killing four people, got off with probation rather than jail time after the defense presented him as a victim of his own wealthy upbringing.

Ethan Couch, 16, was speeding in his pickup truck when he struck people standing on the side of the road. Four people were killed and nine others were hurt, and Ethan had a blood alcohol content of 0.24, three times the legal limit for an adult.


While Judge Jean Boyd on Tuesday could have put Ethan behind bars for 20 years, she instead sentenced him to 10 years probation, telling the teen she didn't believe he would get the therapy he needed in jail.

Dr. G. Dick Miller, a psychologist testifying for the defense, said Ethan suffered from "affluenza," having been brought up by parents who allowed "freedoms no young person should have."

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Ethan's parents thought wealth meant privilege and a freedom from consequences, allowing him to drive at the age of 13 and failing to punish him when he was found by police at the age of 15 in his pickup with a passed-out, undressed, 14-year-old girl.


Miller and Ethan's defense attorneys said he would need years of therapy, and asked he be sent to a private home in California, where he would receive one-on-one therapy and his father would pick up the $450,000 bill.

But for the families of those hurt and killed, the defense's argument that Ethan is a victim terrible parenting badly missed the mark.

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"He'll be feeling the hand of God, definitely," said Maria Mitchell, the mother of Breanna Mitchell, 24, who was one of the four killed in the June 15 accident. "He may think he got away with something, but he hasn't gotten away with anything."

"To me, it's not right," added Alex Lumas, whose brother was paralyzed when he was hit by Ethan's truck.

Eric Boyles, whose wife Hollie and daughter Shelby were both killed, said the verdict has thrown him for a loop.

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"Let's face it, there needs to be some justice here," Boyles said. "For 25 weeks, I've been going through a healing process. And so when the verdict came out, I mean, my immediate reaction is -- I'm back to week one. We have accomplished nothing here. My healing process is out the window."


Hollie and Shelby Boyles left their home to help Breanna Mitchell, whose SUV had broken down by the side of the road. Youth pastor Brian Jennings, who had stopped to help, was also killed when Ethan ruan them over.

Ethan's truck also hit a parked car, then another car driving the opposite direction. The two people riding in the bed of Ethan's truck were tossed out, one suffering a debilitating brain injury and the other from internal injuries and broken bones.

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The teen faces up to 10 years incarceration if he violates his probation. He was not released to his parents.


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