The teenager who made famous the "affluenza" defense was sentenced to 720 days in jail this week. Ethan Couch was tentatively ordered by Texas District Judge Wayne Salvant to spend the next two years in jail. According to CNN, jail time was always a possibility for the teen when Couch's probation case was transferred from juvenile court to adult court after Couch turned 19. His 19th birthday was April 11, 2016. The defense has two weeks to contest the order.
Couch's case, which has received considerable media attention, began back in June of 2013. Couch was driving while under the influence around midnight on June 15, 2013. Earlier in the evening, Couch as well as several of his friends had stolen two cases of beer from Walmart. The teens went to have a party at Couch's parents' home in Burleson, Texas. Later that night, Couch and seven other teens got into his father's Ford pickup to go to a store. He was driving down Burleson-Retta Road when the accident happened. Couch swerved off the road striking a Mercury Mountaineer that was on the side of the road. The car was owned by Brianna Mitchell and had broken down. Several others had stopped to assist Mitchell including Hollie Boyles, her daughter Shelby Boyles, and Brian Jennings, a youth minister at Alsbury Baptist Church. According to the Cleburne Times-Review, an investigation into the accident indicated that "Couch's truck clipped the rear of Mitchell's SUV before running into and killing the four individuals." Couch then struck Jenning's Chevrolet Silverado sending the Silverado into oncoming traffic where it hit a Volkswagen Beetle. Couch's truck flipped and hit a tree, finally coming to a stop.
Two teenagers were thrown from Couch's truck, one of whom is now paralyzed. The occupants of the Beetle were not injured and the two children in Jenning's truck only suffered minor injuries. At the time of the crash, Couch's blood alcohol level was 0.24 and he was driving 68 to 70 miles per hour. He was charged with four counts of intoxication manslaughter and two counts of intoxication assault. The charges could have carried a 20-year sentence. Couch's case was tried in juvenile court. At trial, the defense's psychologist testified that "Mr. Couch should not be sent to prison because he suffered from 'affluenza' — a term that dates at least to the 1980s to describe the psychological problems that can afflict children of privilege." Instead of the 20-year sentence prosecutors were asking for Judge Jean Boyd to sentence him to 10 years probation and ordered Couch to spend time in a long-term treatment facility. The judge did not provide her reasoning for the decision. The light sentence sparked outrage around the nation.
Couch's case may have forever faded from public memory had it not been for social media. In December 2015 a video was uploaded to Twitter showing Couch watching a game of beer pong. According to CNN, "[a]s part of his probation, he was ordered to stay away from drugs and alcohol." After the video was uploaded, Couch and his mother fled to Mexico. Authorities issued a warrant for his arrest after he missed a probation hearing. Ultimately he and his mother were apprehended in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico after ordering a Domino's pizza. Authorities traced the call and caught the pair.
Once Couch serves his sentence he will once again be released on probation. Only time will tell if he can stay out of trouble the second time around.
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