Wealth used as defense for teen accused of killing 4 in drunk driving crash

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FT. WORTH, Texas (CNN)  – The decision by a judge to sentence a teen who killed four people while driving drunk to probation is sparking outrage across the country.

Authorities say 16-year-old Ethan Couch admitted to drinking alcohol the night his speeding truck caused a chain-reaction crash that killed four people and severely injured two others.

Eric Boyles, who lost his wife and daughter in the accident, said, “We had over 180 years of life taken, future life, not 180 years lived but 180 years of future life taken and two of those were my wife and daughter.”

Hollie and Shelby Boyles were helping 24-year-old Breanna Mitchell, whose car was stranded on the side of the road.

Brian Jennings, a youth pastor, also stopped to help the stranded motorist.

That’s when Couch’s vehicle slammed into them.

All four were killed.

Three hours after the crash, Couch’s blood alcohol level was .24, three times the legal limit in Texas.

He was arrested and charged with four counts of intoxication manslaughter.

During the trial, his defense attorney said his client is the product of “affluenza,” caused by his parents.

His defense attorney said Couch doesn’t link bad behavior with consequences because his parents taught him that wealth buys privilege.

The judge ruled that Couch would not be released to his parents and must undergo long-term treatment at an alcohol rehab center.

The teen’s defense attorney says the sentence will teach Couch that there are consequences for his actions.

Scott Brown, Couch’s defense attorney, said, “Taking him away from his family and teaching him to be a responsible citizen, that’s a consequence.”

Others, including the victims’ families, disagree with the decision.

Boyles said, “Money always seems to keep Ethan out of trouble. This was one time I did ask the court that for justice and that for money not to prevail and, ultimately, today I felt like money did prevail.”

Couch will be on probation for 10 years.

If he violates any of the conditions of his probation over that time span, he could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison.


  • Ray

    Unreal , try him as an adult ! He tried to act like one drinking and driving , goes to show u that if u have lots of money u can get away with almost anythg . 4 lives were taken and so should this teens and his parents should suffer as well. Outrageous BS , did the judge even read the case file and listen to the attorney during trial??

    • Tim

      Ray, The same things goes on in Virginia Beach, but here the driver doesn’t get charged with manslaughter for a passenger’s death in the first place. You may have seen WTKR’s broadcasts about how 19 year old, Alexa Liebig’s passenger Chris Pardee was killed as a result of her drinking last June. Chief of Police, Jim Cervera, said the Virginia Beach Police made a “MISTAKE”. I wonder……..

  • Harold Rooke

    There are several things in play here.
    1. Where did he get the liquor? If it was in a bar, the bartender has a responsibility even if he had a fake id.
    2. His parents are responsible because he is a minor.
    3. He needs rehab but that in itself should not be the only punishment. After rehab, he should have some jail-time to pay for his actions.
    4. When he is all done, he can be a responsible adult since he cannot be a responsible juvenile

    • Nadine Cline

      When it is all said and done are those four people less dead? Are their loved ones less alone? Has this world been stripped of four individuals at his hands? if the answers are yes than does it matter to any of them if he can be productive as an adult. He is not a sociology project. He needs to be accountable under the law for the crimes he committed. The state feels 16 year olds are old enough to drive. A child can tell you drinking and driving is wrong, 1 + 1 = 2 regardless of how you arrange it for those families or for the dead.

  • jordan delong

    In the course of human history, cash or trade has obviously been at the forefront of human expansion. Those who have a stronghold on these things think that they may stake an almost God given right to a higher class of life and should be delt with as such. Shame on us, because we, despite knowing differently, seem to act as though we agree. A human life, regaurdless of social stature, holds equal claim to this planet. When lives are takin from it, despite where that life may be held in social standings, it is just that, a human life… This too should be upheld in the judicial system, and its obviously clear it was not. No man or woman is above the laws created to uphold a civil and unified society. Justice is blind for a reason NO ONE is above the law. Things like this NEED to stop; otherwise why are these laws set, and why do we have police inforcing them?

  • Lisa Miller

    The judge has allowed the reinforcement of the notion that wealth does buy privilege. An earlier article stated that the beer was stolen and that 7 teens were in his truck at the time of the murders (call it what you will, but it was murder). Several laws were broken by this spoiled brat and his attorney claims it was because his parents are wealthy… LUDICROUS! The attorney, judge and this boy’s parents, as well as this young criminal should all be ashamed of themselves! If a teen from a less affluent family had committed the same crimes you can be sure they would be in jail. It really does appear that there are different rules for different people… and I feel rather stupid for actually wasting my time raising 2 productive, respectful young men while working full time while my husband served 20 years in the Navy. Not really…It was hard at times but I would do it all the same way if I had to do it again as it was worth it! I am very proud of my sons and how they turned out! I guess this boy’s parents will never be able to say the same and they have only themselves to blame.

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