Eighteen-year-old Ethan Couch was found in Mexico after fleeing the country to avoid the repercussions of breaking his probation.
In June 2013, Couch was charged in juvenile court on four counts of intoxication manslaughter and two counts of intoxication assault after driving recklessly and underage while drunk with a restricted license in Burleson, Texas. Couch killed four people and injured nine.
Prior to the accident, Couch was caught on video stealing two cases of beer from a Walmart store and driving 30 mph over the speed limit with seven other passengers. He also tested positive for Valium in his system.
While driving, Couch lost control of his car and plowed into a group of people standing near a disabled SUV and struck a parked vehicle helping with the SUV.
Prosecutors were seeking a maximum 20 years imprisonment.
The defense hired psychologist G. Dick Miller who testified Couch was a product of “affluenza”. Miller suggested to Judge Boyd that Couch would benefit from rehabilitation rather than jail time.
Affluenza refers to an inability to understand the consequences of one’s actions because of financial privilege.
“Calling it ‘affluenza’ just seems like saying he is too rich for jail,” says sophomore Chris Stepnowski.
Boyd agreed with Miller and sentenced Couch to an unspecified lockdown rehabilitation facility for an unspecified period of time. Couch was also sentenced to 10 years probation, which included no driving, drugs or alcohol.
The trial sparked immediate controversy around the country. “The New York Times” called the sentence an “emotional, angry debate that has stretched far beyond the North Texas suburbs.”
Not yet two years later, Couch became the subject of a manhunt and was listed in the National Fugitive Database on December 11, 2015 after his probation officer was unable to contact him.
Couch and his mother Tonya allegedly fled to Mexico earlier in the month after a probation-violating video appeared on Twitter of Couch playing beer pong.
The pair were tracked to a Mexican apartment after one of them used a cell phone to place a Domino’s Pizza order.
While in Mexico, Couch blew big bucks on strip clubs and bars. After not being able to pay his tab, Couch stumbled home in the middle of the night and asked his mom for money.
After spending time in an underground strip club frequently visited by fugitives, Couch stumbled into an establishment that advertised “boobies and booties galore” under its logo.
There he threw down $2,000 on what is suspected to be alcohol and other activities.
Media reports indicate Couch was unable to walk well or remember how much he spent when he stumbled back to the hotel to ask for more money.
Couch’s mother, who had been charged with reckless driving in her past, was extradited from Mexico and detained immediately. She is facing charges of hindering the apprehension of a juvenile and can face imprisonment.
“It’s ridiculous that this family has caused so much trouble with the law and they continue to do so,” says freshman Lexi Parente. “Something needs to change; they are going to end up killing more people. I think he [Couch] needs serious punishment for his crimes.”
Couch has not yet been extradited, and Mexican attorney Fernando Benitez filed an injunction to delay the process.
Prosecutors have since filed a petition to transfer Couch’s probation to adult court. A juvenile judge will decide if the remainder of the 10 year probation will be under adult supervision at a hearing scheduled for January 19, 2015.
If transferred to adult court, Couch can be sentenced to 120 days in jail as a condition under adult probation. Likewise, Couch could face up to 40 years in prison.
However, if the prosecutors are denied and the judge refuses to transfer Couch to adult court, he will be detained in a juvenile facility for four months until he turns 19 in April.
Currently, Couch is being held in an immigration facility in Mexico since the arrest.
What sentence do you believe Couch should receive?