A 16-year-old boy from an affluent Texas family was sentenced to 10 years probation after he killed four pedestrians while driving his pickup truck drunk. A psychologist testified at his Dec. 12 trial that he has ‘affluenza,’ an affliction of the wealthy, and didn’t deserve the 20-year prison sentence prosecutors wanted.
Ethan Couch, 16, stood trial on Dec. 12 for his June 15 crime, where he admitted to intoxicated manslaughter for killing four pedestrians while driving drunk. Prosecutors felt the court was way too lenient on the teen because of his family’s wealth, and needed a stronger sentence rather than rehab, which was the suggested solution for the teen’s “affluenza,” a term used to describe a sense of entitlement and excuse for poor behavior.
Affluenza Teen Gets Probation Only After Killing 4 In Fatal DWI Crash
Police said Ethan and seven friends were seen on a store surveillance video stealing two cases of beer before piling into his Ford F-350 pickup truck. The teen was speeding and had a blood-alcohol level three times the legal limit, according to the trial’s testimony, and was drinking under the legal age. He lost control of the truck and hit four pedestrians, killing Brian Jennings, a 43-year-old youth minister; Breanna Mitchell, 24; Shelby Boyles, 21; and her mother, Hollie Boyles, 52.
Prosecutors set out to give the teen a 20-year prison sentence, but a psychologist argued that the boy’s upbringing and wealthy family life resulted in him having “affluenza.”
“The simple term would be spoiled brat,” Gary Buffone, a psychologist who does family wealth advising, told USA Today. He said the term should not hold up as an excuse in court. “Essentially what he (the judge) has done is slapped this child on the wrist for what is obviously a very serious offense which he would be responsible for in any other situation. The defense is laughable, the disposition is horrifying … not only haven’t the parents set any consequences, but it’s being reinforced by the judge’s actions.”
Victims’ Families Disappointed & Let Down By Teen’s Verdict
Eric Boyles, who lost his wife and daughter in the accident, said the the teen’s family money is exactly what kept him out of prison. “Money always seems to keep you out of trouble,” he said after hearing the verdict. “Ultimately today, I felt that money did prevail. If you had been any other youth, I feel like the circumstances would have been different.”
— Kristine Hope Kowalski