• Fri, Dec 13 - 12:00 pm ET

Rich Kid Kills Four In Drunk Driving Accident – Blames It On ‘Affluenza’

Screen Shot 2013-12-13 at 8.40.44 AMLast June, four people were killed when a pickup-truck slammed into pedestrians on a Texas road. The pickup also slammed into a parked car, which slid into a vehicle headed in the opposite direction. At the wheel was 16-year-old Ethan Couch, a drunk teenager who will serve no time for killing four people because he’s a product of too much privilege and can’t be expected to know right from wrong. That’s the argument his defense attorneys made – and the judge bought it. Couch suffers from “Affluenza.”

Translation: he’s got enough money and the right skin color to make this all disappear.

A psychologist confirmed ‘affluenza’ exists, claiming Couch was the product of wealthy parents who never set limits for the boy. Right. He couldn’t be expected to thrive in that environment – what with all that money and privilege. Judge Jean Boyd sentenced the boy to 10 years probation. He will serve no jail time for killing four people.

In addition to the four pedestrians he killed, two people that were riding in the back of his truck were severely injured. One is no longer able to talk or move thanks to a brain injury and the other suffered broken bones and internal injuries.

Eric Boyles lost his wife and daughter in the crash. He told Anderson Cooper:

“Let’s face it. … There needs to be some justice here…

There are absolutely no consequences for what occurred that day,” said Boyles. “The primary message has to absolutely be that money and privilege can’t buy justice in this country.”

Defense attorney Scott Brown asserts, ”There is nothing the judge could have done to lessen the suffering for any of those families.” Shut up. I seriously doubt any of those families want you speaking for them.

‘Affluenza.’ This makes my blood boil. I can’t even imagine what it’s like for the families who have lost loved ones. This sentence is a slap in the face. Now we’re claiming all the privilege and resources someone has are actually a handicap? I can’t imagine the reverse tactic would work – although it makes more sense. Lesser criminals are constantly sentenced for smaller crimes than Couch committed – and could certainly blame a lack of resources and support on their decisions. Somehow that doesn’t go over as well. A writer for The Root put it best in his article, If This Rich Kid Suffers From ‘Affluenza,’ Than We’ve All Got ‘Negrobetes’:

If Couch has such a problem with being wealthy, then he should try being poor. ..

While I don’t want to make light of a serious situation, it is hard not to when a judge makes a joke of a criminal trial. A white kid claiming affluenza gets probation, while a young black kid, if found guilty of the same crime, couldn’t argue that he suffers from a combination of societal and parental neglect and that his situation should afford him the luxury of mischief. He would learn his lesson staring down the barrel of two to 20 years in prison, the normal sentence for a crime of this magnitude.

(photo: YouTube)

You can reach this post's author, Maria Guido, on twitter.
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  • keelhaulrose

    Sue the kid and his parents into “real fucking world-za”. The lawyer admitted it’s the parents fault for not setting limits, they should pay for their lack of parenting.

    • DeanaCal

      Yeah, can the victim’s families sue the rich kid’s parents for criminal negligence or something?

    • elle

      I’ve read that the boy was driving his dad’s work truck so they are able to sue the company. Which is good cuz I’m sure the parents have no assets in their own name.

    • Roberta

      I am thinking that if the defence lawyer’s argument is that the parents are at fault for their son being an asshat, then that leaves the parents wide open for a lawsuit. It won’t bring the victims back, but it is something.

    • Lindsey Sweet

      Who down voted this, and why???

  • DeanaCal

    Okaaaayyyyy, so the kids gets no punishment because it’s not his fault that he never got any punishments? Yeah, that’s gonna work.

  • TngldBlue

    That was my exact thought-why can’t the kid who grew up with absentee parents and without a dime to his/her name claim poorfluenza? The requisites of having a conscience do not include two perfect parents.

  • EX

    In the original article, the psychologist explained that in this kid’s life “there was no rational link between behavior and consequences.” Soooooo, the treatment is for him to, again, experience no link between behavior and consequences? Methinks this guy got his license out of a cracker-jack-box.

    • keelhaulrose

      I wonder if he ever went to school, and if the school graded him fairly or if they were bribed for good grades. If it’s the former, there’s at least one place he should have learned consequences for his actions or inactions. If it’s the latter shame on the school.
      This kid is going to kill someone else. I guarantee it. I hope his next judge throws the whole library at him and his rotten parents.

    • pixie

      I’m pretty sure I read in one article that he’s already graduated high school at 16. So he’s either a highly intelligent sociopath or the school was paid off and he never really did learn about consequences.

    • TngldBlue

      I read a comment from a more, shall we say, esteemed psychologist that said affluenza is simply a fancy term for spoiled brat. Sounds about right.

    • CrazyLogic

      He should have been locked in a mental facility to treat his “condition”

  • Jessica

    This is what angry mobs were MADE for.

    • Jessica

      I retract, as someone else already pointed out: the victims’ families need to sue the money completely out of that bloodline.

    • Roberta

      Can we still have an angry mob? I got the torches already lit and everything.

    • DeanaCal

      How about an angry mob with deposit slips at the ready for all the money this kid’s parents are going to have to dish out after the lawsuit?

    • EX

      Yeah, I was already sharpening my pitchfork when she called it off…

    • Jessica

      Maybe the angry mob should head over to the judge’s house to make sure he doesn’t end up presiding over another case ever again.

    • AugustW

      I imagine they could sue in non criminal court, the way the family’s sued OJ Simpson.

  • Megan Zander

    I saw red when I read this and it made me wonder a few things: how much was the psychologist who testified for the kid paid to come up with this affluenza bs ( bc all expert witness are paid, sometimes in the tens of thousands range) and two, is Texas a state where judges a elected rather than appointed? Bc I cannot for the life of me understand this joke of a punishment unless the judge was elected and mommy and daddy are campaign contributiors. The is a clip floating around of the dr trying to defend his testimony and he said something along the lines of ” this place will be awful for him because there are no girls and no XBOX”. You know where else they don’t have those things? in prison! And hey, if because of his age they want to send him to a juvenile detention center, fine, but this ” treatment” facility is such crap. I feel so badly for the victims friends and family.

    • elle

      The judge was elected! And the judge isn’t running for reelection next year! Normally I totally side eye and scoff at conspiracy theories but…..Yeah I could potentially buy into this one. It will be interesting to see if the judge makes any comment or stays quiet.

    • Megan Zander

      See! I’m not one for conspiracies either ( except for Area 51, come on) but I worked as a law clerk for years watching trials and I really don’t know how else a ruling could be this far off base without some outside force at work.

    • keelhaulrose

      What is completely mind-boggling is that the “psychiatrist” (I’ll use that term loosely) testified that he had gotten away with things in the past, like being found with a naked, passed-out 14 year old girl, with no punishment, so he shouldn’t get punishment now.
      Any reasonable human being would go “Um, no, that’s EXACTLY why he needs to be punished. He’s gotten away with so much shit, he thinks he’s invincible.”

  • Paul White

    Sounds like he needs a shot, right in the head, about 9mm in diameter.

  • lizinthelibrary

    Another article I read said that last year (when he was 15) he had been found in a park in a vehicle with a passed out naked 14 year-old girl. And his parents gave him no punishment for that either. The mind absolutely boggles.
    http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2013/12/12/ethan_couch_affluenza_texas_teen_spared_prison_time_in_deadly_drunk_driving.html

    “Don’t handicap your children by making their lives easy.” -Robert Heinlein

    • keelhaulrose

      He also had prior alcohol offenses. His “punishment” was $423 in court fines, which mommy promptly paid.
      These parents need to loose custody, and this boy needs a swift kick in the ass several times over, or he will kill someone else.

  • Bethany Ramos

    This made my blood BOIL. I have seen many encounters with drunk driving in my social circles, and it floors me every time that people can be this close to doing something terrible without caring. My husband showed me this article, and it made me all ragey before bedtime. The only thing I feel sad about is that maybe this kid will have a conscience in a few years and realize what he’s done.

  • Kay_Sue

    Honestly, I don’t know that I entirely agree or disagree with the sentence. I do entirely disagree with the inconsistency. Wait! Don’t downvote yet–let me explain.

    You have two options with kids like this: you can throw them in jail (like the black child in the example above) or you can try to turn them into a productive citizen. I prefer the second option. I DO think the judge entirely failed at that with this sentence–you need a real consequence, and you do need an actual plan for creating a productive citizen at the end of it. I fail to see how the judge did that with this sentence. So thus I “agree” with not sending him to jail forever, and “disagree” with the actual sentence itself.

    This opinion, for me, is regardless of the color of the kid’s skin or how much money he has. We are throwing away the key to too many young lives, especially those of kids of color. It’s time to really, really look at how we handle situations like this. I know that will never happen, and that makes this sentencing even more infuriating.

    • SarahJesness

      I suppose. I would be more forgiving if his crimes weren’t so extreme. Killing FOUR people during a drunk driving spree? His age has me iffy on life in prison but he needs something severe.

    • Kay_Sue

      I agree that it would need to be substantial for him to learn anything from it. Chances are good, at this rate, he’ll never feel any remorse for what he has done whatsoever, and he’ll learn nothing from it. It’s an ineffective sentence all around.

    • Gangle

      You know who had the key thrown away on their young lives? The people he killed and the friends he maimed. My sister-in-law was killed by a kid who sped through a red light. It wasn’t his first serious driving offence, and he had badly injured at least on other victim before he got to my SIL. For each of his previous offences he was handed out community service, loss of his licence and heavy fines. It didn’t deter him. For my sisters death he got a fine and lost his licence for a few years. Well, he has it back now, and he still drives like he wants to kill someone. I hope the next serious accident he has he only kills himself, and no-one else has to be involved. If you kill someone, even unintentionally, and it was because of your own poor decision-making, well that has to be treated as serious. To me, if you kill someone in a car and it is because of your own extreme negligence the minimum sentence should be 6 months prison and a lifetime ban on driving a car again. When do people start paying their dues?

    • Kay_Sue

      My question would be–how does that make up for the lives that he took?

      He never feels remorse, because he doesn’t learn any better. He goes to jail, he lives under this lifetime ban, and he still never learns to give a damn, because people still have no meaning to him. We’ve taught him nothing, except to feel sorry for himself.

      I feel no sympathy for him, or for anyone that drives under the influence. I watched my very dear great aunt struggle for years with the impact of a drunk driving accident scarily similar to this one. It did not kill her immediately. It killed her slowly, over nearly a decade of pain and suffering.

      Jail isn’t a deterrent in these cases. It’s time to look at the system and see how we can create citizens that feel remorse for what they have done, and that never want to do it again.

    • Gangle

      Nothing, NOTHING makes up for the lives he has taken. I am not talking about revenge (if I was, this guy would need to lose his wife, his sister, his daughter etc and his brain function… that about adds up to all the people who’s lives he has destroyed). It is about paying what you owe. This guy owes for several lifetimes. Of course this kid needs to learn remorse. He also needs to learn consequences for actions, and society needs to be protected from a dangerous and reckless driver who has a sense of entitlement and invincibility. I agree that prevention is absolutely necessary. But so is re-enforcing consequences for actions. Learning about consequences is part of being alive, and it is high time this guy started being taught that.

  • Alexandra

    I bet a prison sentence would have cured that affluenza quickly!!

  • Rachel Sea

    I hope the people he killed haunt him forever.

  • pixie

    I have a hard time processing this. Yes the boy was rich and his parents taught him that if he did something wrong then all would be fixed if he paid people off. No his parents never taught him consequences. But…he went to school. Teachers do (should) play an important role in teaching life lessons such as consequences of actions and the difference between right and wrong. Unless, of course, the teachers have been paid off to ignore any bad behaviour he shows (if so, shame on them). As other commenters have said, “affluenza” is BS. It shouldn’t matter that he’s stinking rich and his parents never taught him about consequences, he killed four people and seriously injured two others. Not to mention the fact that he is probably getting off with a far lighter sentence than most others would for stealing a vehicle (regardless of the fact it was owned by his father’s company), stealing alcohol, drinking underage, and driving while intoxicated.

    Why start teaching this kid the importance of consequences now, if he was never taught growing up?

    What scares me more is this boy seems to be showing no empathy or remorse for the lives he’s ended. Surely, even for someone who was never taught consequences, would feel a bit of remorse for what they have done.

    • anonymous

      Teachers being paid off? Unfortunately not. If you work in education, you’ll understand how quickly a teacher’s efforts to teach consequences are subverted by an angry call to an administrator. An administrator who probably also isn’t being paid off but is up for dismissing bad behavior in exchange for dismissing bad publicity.

    • pixie

      That’s true too. Even still, it’s not necessarily right.

    • SarahJesness

      Yep. My dad, when working in a public middle school, had a difficult time enforcing punishments because whiny parents would call and try to get things reversed, and the administration never backed him up. (in fact, they didn’t seem to want him to punish students at all, and also encouraged him to make the class easier so there wouldn’t be so many students failing) I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if he had teachers who wanted to punish him for bad behavior but couldn’t because they had no power to do anything. (which seems to be an increasing problem in schools, even when kids don’t have rich parents)

  • Alicia Kiner

    I have lots of opinions on this whole mess.
    a) affluenza is 100% bullshit. period.
    b) i don’t disagree that his parents are partially to blame for his behavior. They should have taught him right from wrong, and that actions have consequences. they screwed their kid up for life. But at what point does it stop being the parents’ fault and start being his?
    c) the defense attorney is right in that sending this kid to jail isn’t going to bring back the 4 people he killed. HOWEVER, NOT sending this kid to jail, is a slap to the face of their families. This judge just told them those 4 people didn’t matter. Fantastic.
    d) Oh, and let’s remember, the kid plead guilty. There was no jury to acquit him. He plead out. This kid got one hell of a plea agreement. Congrats to the judge and the DA. you just set precedent.

    This will be fun to watch. Oh, and I so hope every single one of these families goes after this kid’s parents for every single penny they have.

    • SarahJesness

      a) Agreed. It’s just a fancy word for “spoiled brat”.
      b) That’s a good point. Even if he was raised without consequences, he’s 16. He really should have some knowledge of what’s right, what’s wrong, legal and illegal. Just because he thought he could get away with it doesn’t make it right. Hell, a criminal doesn’t need to have rich parents to think he can get away with his crime. Otherwise, crime rates would be insanely low.
      c) Also agreed. The “it won’t bring people back” argument can be applied to ANY manslaughter case, shoot, it could be applied to any crime that gets committed.

  • Michelle Pittman

    my blood boils every time i read about this horrible story…i certainly don’t see any school shooters getting off when they retaliate (horribly obviously) to getting bullied…i would think getting terrorized at school and fearing for your safety on a daily basis would rationalize getting a lighter sentence in these cases — but it doesn’t happen because school shooting are a freaking horribly crime…and this is a horrible freaking crime…and way to go — he got off for killing four people and maiming more — so this is going to increase his comprehension of receiving consequences for his actions?!?!?!?!?

  • AugustW

    I think a nice long prison sentence would be an excellent way for him to observe the rational link between behavior and consequences.

    • SarahJesness

      Hey, yeah! Nobody in prison is going to care that he has money. Because prison limits what you can have, he wouldn’t have much to buy his way out of trouble with. And even then, if he pisses someone off, that person probably wouldn’t accept any offers or bribes. And even if he could avoid being beaten up by offering the beater something? Well, that would just set a precedent. Other prisoners might start going to him and threatening to beat him up if he doesn’t give them something that they want. So, he’s learning about consequences! Yaaaay!

      If anything, prison is the PERFECT environment to learn about consequences! He won’t be better than anyone else, he won’t be in a higher position. To learn about consequences, he should be in an environment where he’s equal to everyone else and won’t be allowed to get away with shit.

  • SarahJesness

    Does this mean the families of the victims can sue his parents for never disciplining him?

    • Vicki Lewis

      Man I hope they do!!! This is a great idea.

  • SarahJesness

    This doesn’t even make any sense. Even if this kid NEVER had to face negative consequences for his actions, why does that mean he never has to face any in the present or future? That would just make the situation worse. There’s a first time for everything. Rich parents won’t be around forever, and unless he has a ton of money to himself for the rest of his life, he won’t be able to keep buying himself out of the consequences.

    And even then, there are probably some things you can’t buy yourself out of. A girlfriend who leaves, fed-up with being treated poorly, might not come back for all the cash in the world. A reputation as a bad business partner would lose you a lot of potential work. Not everyone will overlook bad behavior in favor of money. Many will, but some will not. If he goes to college and does poorly in his classes, what if the school refuses to accept bribes and payments for good grades?

  • Kheldarson

    Oh! Oh! On top of that, he was also doped on Valium, and he was heard to say “I’m Ethan Couch–I’ll get you out of this” AS HE WAS FLEEING THE SCENE (http://www.wjla.com/articles/2013/12/-affluenza-defense-gets-ethan-couch-no-prison-time-in-fatal-crash-98065.html).

    Didn’t know what he was doing was wrong, my a$$. He just doesn’t care because he knows mommy and daddy’s money will take care of it all.

    • SarahJesness

      Agreed. He probably knew that most people wouldn’t get away with this, but he could because he knows his parents would bail him out. What if he was put in a position he couldn’t bribe himself out of? I bet he’d be a lot more careful. He acts like this not because he legitimately thinks it’s okay, but because he knows he can get away with it.

  • Vicki Lewis

    That man lost his wife and daughter. I can’t even imagine that. I wonder how the judge would feel about “affluenza” if that had been his wife and child.

  • Gangle

    ‘there is nothing the judge could have done to lessen the pain’… what about paying your dues? This kid (or, rather his parents, if you go by the judge) has much that he owes. If his inability to make sound, safe decisions was really the direct result of his parents failure to parent him, then it would at least be nice to see them in jail for manslaughter and grievious bodily harm charges.

  • Geogirl

    Wait, so because his parents didn’t set appropriate limits no one else in the world should either? At least that’s how I read the argument.

  • whiteroses

    Eventually, he’ll kill someone else. Here’s hoping that when that happens, he’ll draw a principled judge who will absolutely throw the book at him.

  • March

    So, this kid is denied any sort of responsibility for his actions because someone (his parents?) “found a scuzzy lawyer and a scuzzier shrink to pronounce him disabled”. ( From a glorious rant by Ally McBeal)

    For once in a lifetime, I salute the American system of suing for damages.

  • Maddi Holmes

    I’m confused as to how he’s the only person who came out of this incident not severely injured or killed. I guess even while really drunk he knew he should wear a seat belt?