‘Affluenza’ Teen Sentenced to 2 Years
A Texas teenager who used an “affluenza” defense in a fatal drunken-driving wreck is facing nearly two years in jail.
The surprising sentence for Ethan Couch, who turned 19 on Monday, came Wednesday after prosecutors convinced state District Judge Wayne Salvant that he could give Couch 180 days for each of the four deaths in the June 2013 wreck. It was Couch’s first appearance in adult court.
Couch was originally sentenced to 10 years’ probation by a juvenile court. He was jail after he fled with his mother, Tonya, to Mexico when a video surfaced online showing Couch apparently at a party where alcohol was being served.
Drinking alcohol is a violation of Couch’s probation. The two were apprehended in Mexico in December and brought back to Texas in January.
Couch, who appeared in court on Wednesday, has been in custody since authorities returned him to Texas earlier this year.
Expectations before the hearing were that Couch wouldn’t get more than a few months in jail before finishing the rest of his probation.
Judge Salvant said he wouldn’t immediately decide whether to give Couch extra jail time. The judge told lawyers for both sides he wanted to hear more from them before making a decision.
In 2013, Couch lost control as he drove his family’s pickup truck after he and his friends had played beer pong and drank beer that some of them had stolen from a Wal-Mart. He veered into a crowd of people helping the driver of a disabled vehicle on the side of the road. Authorities later estimated that he was going 70 mph in a 40 mph zone.
The crash fatally injured the stranded motorist, a youth minister who stopped to help her and a mother and daughter who came out of their nearby home.
Couch was found to have had a blood-alcohol level three times the legal limit for adult drivers.
State District Judge Jean Boyd gave Couch 10 years of probation, a sentence that outraged victims’ relatives and prosecutors who had wanted prison time.