Sixteen-year-old Ethan Couch, a member of a wealthy North Texas family, has been taught a valuable lesson by the criminal justice system in Texas: If you’re rich, you can get away with killing four pedestrians while driving drunk.
How was Couch able to avoid time behind bars? First, his lawyer utilized the “affluenza” defense.
The word “affluenza” has been used to describe a condition in which children — generally from richer families — have a sense of entitlement, are irresponsible, make excuses for poor behavior and sometimes dabble in drugs and alcohol, a psychologist who does family wealth advising told the Associated Press.
A different psychologist called by Couch’s lawyer as a witness in the trial contended that the teenager should not be sent to prison for the maximum 20-year sentence prosecutors were seeking because his wealthy parents never set limits for him and spoiled him.
The second reason Couch spit the hook was that the judge in the case bought into the ridiculous notion that rich kids should not be held responsible for their actions.
The judge gave Couch 10 years’ of probation for killing the four pedestrians and paralyzing a fifth person when he plowed them down with his vehicle.
Couch admitted his guilt in four cases of intoxication manslaughter in the June accident.
District Judge Jean Boyd presided over a three-day trial during which witnesses, victims’ loved ones, investigators and treatment experts testified.
The psychologist who testified as a defense witness said the boy grew up in a house where the parents were preoccupied with arguments that led to a divorce, the Fort Worth Star- Telegram reported.
But prosecutor Richard Alpert argued in court that if the boy continues to be cushioned by his family’s wealth another tragedy is inevitable.
Indeed, trial notes reportedly claim that after the accident Couch said to one of the passengers, “I’m Ethan Couch I’ll get you out of this.”
The parents’ enabling of the 16-year-old’s irresponsible behavior continued even after the trial. They said they would pay for him to go to a $450,000-a-year rehabilitation center near Newport Beach, Calif.
Dr. Gary Buffone, the psychologist who does family wealth advising, said the term “affluenza” was not meant to be used as a defense in a criminal trial or to justify such behavior.
“The simple term would be spoiled brat,” Buffone said.
No, a spoiled brat is a child who has a temper tantrum in the middle of a store because his mother won’t buy him the toy he wants.
Couch is a juvenile delinquent who has learned to use his family wealth to get away with his criminal behavior.
Time behind bars for killing the four pedestrians would have been a life-changing experience. Now, he will go to a luxury rehabilitation facility where he will be pampered and, again, learn that money does buy just about everything.
He is on a path to anti-social behavior that will result in another brush with the law. His parents should be proud.