Ethan Couch, a 16-year-old who killed four people and injured nine others in a drunk driving crash last June, won’t serve any jail time, after a decision handed down by a Texas judge yesterday. In a case that is stirring national outrage, State District Judge Jean Boyd sentenced Couch to 10 years probation.
Couch’s blood alcohol level was 0.24 when he struck and killed youth pastor Brian Jennings, mother and daughter Hollie and Shelby Boyles, and 24-year-old Breanna Mitchell. Jennings and the Boyleses had stopped to help Mitchell, who had a flat tire, on a road in Tarrant County, near Fort Worth. A total of 16 people were involved in the multi-car pile-up Couch caused when he crashed into the group. One of Couch’s passengers is still hospitalized with severe brain damage.
Prosecutors had sought a 20 year prison term. But defense attorneys successfully argued that Couch, who comes from a wealthy family, was a victim of “affluenza,” and that as a result of his privilege did not recognize there were consequences to his behavior. Gawker reports that Couch will spend time in a $500,000-a-year treatment center.
Local station WFAA reports that disappointed friends and family of the victims left the courthouse through the back door following the decision.
“There are just some things that even today … are just too difficult to talk about,” said Eric Boyles, whose wife and daughter were killed. “At this point, we are trying to take life one day at a time. I do look forward to the day that we can put some of this behind us. Today could have been a good start at that … and unfortunately the wounds that it opened only makes the healing process that much greater.”