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The Affluenza Argument

Drunk driving North Texas teen gets probation for killing 4 people

Ethan Couch
Ethan Couch, 16, was sentenced to 10 years' probation for his role in a drunk-driving accident that killed four people. Photo courtesy of MamasLatinas

A Tarrant County teen driver involved in a drunk driving car crash that killed four people was sentenced to probation instead of being sent to jail. Juvenile court judge Jean Boyd sentenced 16-year-old Ethan Couch to 10 years' probation on December 10 for his role in the June 15 accident.

Mother and daughter Hollie and Shelby Boyles, Breanna Mitchell and youth pastor Brian Jennings were killed; Couch could have been sentenced to 20 years.

 Eric Boyles, whose wife and daughter were killed, stated that he thought Ethan Couch stayed out of jail because his family was rich.

According to WFAA, Judge Boyd didn't believe Couch would be rehabilitated in jail. An editorial in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram defends Boyd in her role as top judge on Tarrant County's juvenile court. She'll leave office when her current term ends in 2014.

A psychologist for the defense testified that Couch could be rehabilitated in one to two years plus no contact with his parents.

Dr. G. Dick Miller (really? Dr. G. Dick?) described Couch as "a product of 'affluenza,' where his family felt that wealth bought privilege, and there was no rational link between behavior and consequences."

Couch was driving a Ford truck registered to his father's company, and he reportedly had stolen beer from a Walmart. His blood alcohol tested at 0.24 percent, and he also had Valium in his system.

He'll be sent to the Newport Academy, a small facility in California, at a cost of $450,000, which Couch's parents will pay.

Couch had two prior alcohol citations for driving 89 mph in a 40 mph zone, to which he pleaded no contest in March. His mother paid $423 in court costs, and Couch was supposed to take an alcohol awareness class and do 12 hours of community service.

Eric Boyles, whose wife and daughter were killed, stated that he thought Couch stayed out of jail because his family was rich. Columbia University professor Patricia J. Williams told Al Jazeera that "it makes a mockery of equality and equal standing before the law."

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