Ethan Couch's Affluenza Sentence In Texas Shocks Anderson Cooper, Victims' Families
In the two days since Texan teen Ethan Couch, 16, received an astonishingly light sentence for a drunk-driving accident that killed four people, outrage over the ruling has only deepened. Couch's defense called the teen a victim of "affluenza." In case you haven't heard, affluenza is apparently a disorder that goes something like this: because the boy's parents were wealthy and careless to the point that Couch never understood that his actions have consequences, he couldn't be held fully accountable for his crime. Couch was sentenced by Judge Jean Boyd to 10 years' probation and an extended stay in a rehabilitation facility that Anderson Cooper described as a "spa."
Back in June, Couch stole beer from Walmart with his friends, and crashed his car into a broken-down vehicle on the road. Four people died in the accident, and ten more were injured. Toxicology reports revealed that Couch was three times over the legal drinking limit, and had Valium in his system to boot. At sentencing, Couch's defense team insisted that rehabilitation would be more useful for the teen than incarceration (Couch was initially up for 20 years), and the judge agreed. Couch's parents will put up the funds for his stay in the rehabilitation clinic, which costs almost half a million dollars per year.
Judge Boyd hasn't yet publicly commented on the outrage following her sentence, and was already planning to retire from the bench next year. The assistant district attorney and juvenile prosecutor in the case released an angry press statement: “We are disappointed by the punishment assessed but have no power under the law to change or overturn it.” Couch had elected to have Boyd sentence him herself.
At the sentencing, Boyd heard testimony that Couch had "essentially raised himself," had an emotional age of 12, and had never understood consequence because his parents compensated with money when he, or they, did wrong — hence "affluenza."
Another member of Couch's defense team noted that due to the lengthly probation sentence, Couch could be "under the thumb" of the justice system longer than if he'd served jail time. (Which sounds a little fishy to us.)
As for the victims' families, reported the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, there was a "lot of disappointment in the room." Judge Boyd had said that no amount of time spent in prison could bring the victims back or heal their families' suffering, an argument that Eric Boyles strongly contests. Boyles' wife and daughter were killed in the crash.
On Anderson Cooper 360, Boyles explained: "For 25 weeks, I've been going through a healing process. And so when the verdict came out, I mean, my immediate reaction is — I'm back to week one. We have accomplished nothing here. My healing process is out the window."
Cooper and Nancy Grace, amongst others, covered the case on their Wednesday night shows. Grace implored viewers to contact Texas governor Rick Perry about the sensational sentence.
Jacquielynn Floyd wrote in the Dallas News:
It wasn’t the first screw-up for this model young citizen. According to trial testimony, he has been arrested on other alcohol-related charges. At one point, he was caught with an underaged girl, undressed and passed out, in his car... A psychologist hired by the defense testified, in an elegant rendering of courtroom logic, that because he has gotten off without serious punishment in the past, he cannot be seriously punished in this case either.
During the trial, Boyd explained that she doubted he will get the treatment he needs in the state’s correctional system. "Whether [Couch] needs to be introduced to the novel concept of punishment was not addressed."