Wednesday brought more heartbreak for the families of the four victims killed by reckless teenage drunk driver Ethan Couch as the Texas judge who bought into the controversial “affluenza defense” ruled Couch will not serve any additional jail time.
In December, District Judge Jean Boyd ordered Couch, 16, to 10-years probation, but during Wednesday’s sentencing hearing, prosecutors asked for jail time, which Boyd denied, according to the Star-Telegram.
Instead, Boyd ruled that Couch would enter a “lock down addiction treatment facility and [can] not drive or use alcohol or drugs for 10 years, according to a news release from the Tarrant County district attorney’s office. She ordered his parents to pay for his treatment,” KDFW Fox 4 reported.
The rehab facility, according to reports, is not the expensive, private facility Couch’s family wanted him to enter.
“Fourteen facilities were considered, and four declined to accept Couch because of the intense media scrutiny around the case,” Eric Boyles, whose wife and daughter were killed by Couch, told the Telegram. “The facility chosen is somewhere in Texas. Its location was not disclosed,” nor did the judge set a minimum time requirement Couch must stay in the rehab facility.
“After six, seven, nine months, who knows, he walks out and is able to move on with his life,” Boyles said.
Couch admitted to recklessly driving drunk last summer when he lost control of his vehicle and killed four and severely injuring two others. An “expert” for his defense said Couch was a victim of “affluenza” – a condition of being brought up in a life of privilege and wealth where he was never disciplined or made to face consequences for his actions.
The victims’ families were rightfully angry and upset.
According to Fox 4;
After the hearing, family members of the victims expressed anger that Couch didn’t get any jail time, and said they believed Couch got off easily because his parents were rich.
“Had he not had money to have the defense there, to also have the experts testify and also offer to pay for the treatment, I think the results would have been different,” Boyles said.
“No amount of money or prestige or status is ever gonna grant them immunity to what they all chose for their life that caused this to our lives,” said Marla Mitchell, whose daughter Brianna was killed.
Sergio Molina was critically injured in the crash and suffered permanent brain damage.
His brother, Alexander Lemus, said rehab for Couch is not justice.
But Couch’s attorneys were pleased: “[Boyd] knows more about juvenile law and how to appropriately handle these cases than just about anybody in the state of Texas,” Couch’s attorney Reagan Wynn told reporters, according to Fox 4. “She heard all the evidence and she made what she thought was the appropriate disposition.”
“The juvenile justice system is not the adult justice system,” Wynn said. “The juvenile justice system is about rehabilitation.”
Prosecutor Richard Alpert, speaking to reporters after the hearing, was outraged.
“There are problems with the juvenile justice system,” the Telegram reported Alpert said. “We’ve talked to the Legislature and we will get something done.”