Convicted of killing four people in a drunk-driving accident in Burleson, Texas, in 2013, affluenza teen Ethan Couch may be released from prison soon. Couch, who made headlines after his defense team argued he suffered from "affluenza" as a result of being raised wealthy, is currently scheduled to leave the Tarrant County jail in Dallas, Texas, in two weeks, The Dallas Morning News reported.
Couch has been serving a nearly two-year sentence after he violated his probation by fleeing to Mexico with his mother. He was given no jail time for the drunk-driving accident, which occurred when he was 16, and instead got 10 years probation and time in a rehabilitation facility. But once he fled the country in 2016, he was sentenced to 720 days in jail. Now 20, Couch is set to be released on April 2.
"It wasn’t a surprise to me at all he couldn’t follow the rules,” Tarrant County Sheriff Dee Anderson told Today's Savannah Guthrie after Couch was caught breaking his probation. “He’s never had to follow rules. He doesn’t believe in the rules. I was just surprised it didn’t happen sooner."
Couch and his mom, Tonya, fled to Puerto Vallarta after the teen had broken his probation twice — once by attending a party where beer pong was being played, and again by missing a meeting with his probation officer. They were caught in Mexico after using a cellphone to order a pizza from Domino's, according to the AP.
Couch and his mom carefully planned their escape to Mexico, according to Anderson, and they told some friends they intended to leave the country at a party beforehand.
“It was described to us by some people as more or less a going-away party,” Anderson told Today. “A gathering basically to tell some friends goodbye and that they were heading out of the country. Again, just an example of the arrogance and the way these people don’t believe the law applies to them.”
Once they were caught, Couch received 180 days in jail for each victim killed in the 2013 accident, the Guardian reported. Tonya was arrested, but freed on bond in January 2016, according to The Dallas Morning News. She's currently awaiting trial on charges of hindering apprehension of a felon and money laundering.
A lot of people thought Couch's sentencing was too lenient given the crime, according to NBC News. He was driving with a blood alcohol content of .24, according to the district attorney's office, three times the legal limit for adults, when he lost control of his pickup truck and killed four pedestrians.
While prosecutors sought the maximum sentence for Couch, 20 years in state custody according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, his legal team convinced state District Judge Jean Boyd he suffered from "affluenza," meaning he'd never had to face consequences before and therefore shouldn't be held solely accountable for his actions. They argued he'd be better off in rehab than prison.
Family members of the victims spoke out against Couch's light sentencing. "Let's face it. ... There needs to be some justice here," Eric Boyles, who lost his wife and daughter in the accident, told CNN's Anderson Cooper. "There are absolutely no consequences for what occurred that day. The primary message has to absolutely be that money and privilege can't buy justice in this country."
At the time, Couch's attorney, Scott Brown, defended the judge's ruling. "There is nothing the judge could have done to lessen the suffering for any of those families," he said after the trial, according to CNN affiliate KTVT. "She fashioned a sentence that is going to keep Ethan under the thumb of the justice system for the next 10 years. And if Ethan doesn't do what he's supposed to do, if he has one misstep at all, then this judge, or an adult judge when he's transferred, can then incarcerate him."