News & Politics

16-Year-Old Drunk Driver Who Killed Four Escapes Jail — Because He Is Rich

Judge agrees with boy’s defense that he was a victim of 'affluenza.'

A 16-year-old boy has been spared jail time for killing four people while driving drunk because his rich parents spoiled him, CBS reported.

Ethan Couch from Keller, Texas, was facing up to 20 years behind bars for the incident, but instead, State District Judge, Jean Boyd, sentenced him to a decade of probation.

The incident occurred in June when Couch and his friends stole beer from a Walmart store in Burleson.  After consuming the alcohol they got into his pickup to go to another store.  Couch was behind the wheel and plowed into some pedestrians and killed four people,  and injured nine altogether.  One of the passengers in his car remains in hospital with severe brain damage.

Couch was traveling 70 miles per hour in a 40 zone and his blood alcohol level was .24 at the time of the crash, three times the legal limit for an adult. He also had valium in his system.

The teen was described as belligerent and uncooperative at the scene, at one point exclaiming, "I’m outta here”.

Couch's attorney argued his parents were responsible for the teen’s actions because they had raised him to believe that wealth and privilege could shield him from consequences.  His psychologist also testified that he was used to getting whatever he wanted and was allowed to drive at 13 - with the emotional age of a 12-year-old. Apparently the judge bought that argument.

The victims' families are angered at the judgment and many sobbed in court when the verdict was handed down.  Eric Boyles, whose wife and daughter were killed in the crash told the Star Telegram after sentencing:

'Money always seems to keep (Couch) out of trouble. Ultimately today, I felt that money did prevail. If (he) had been any other youth, I feel like the circumstances would have been different,” he said.

Couch will now be sent to a $500 rehab center and has five civil wrong death suits pending against him.



Jodie Gummow is a senior fellow and staff writer at AlterNet.