On June 15, sixteen year old Ethan Anthony Couch and seven friends stole alcohol from a local Walmart. After getting hammered, they decided it was a good idea to head to another store for a “beer run,” so they embarked on a brisk, drunken 70-mph cruise through a 40-mph zone.
Breanna Mitchell, who was headed home after a catering event, had stepped out of her car to repair a flat tire. Hollie Boyles and her daughter Shelby walked out to assist her. Youth pastor Brian Jennings also stopped to help. Couch accelerated his vehicle as it went off the road, mowing down all four victims as they stood in a driveway. He then clipped the rear of Jennings’ vehicle, sending it across both lanes and into an oncoming Beetle. Two children inside the Silverado were injured. Fortunately, there were no injuries in the other car. Cole’s truck then “went airborn” and slammed into a tree, sending two passengers flying from the truck bed. One is still in the hospital with severe brain damage.
Couch’s blood alcohol level was .24 at the time of the crash–three times the legal limit for an adult.
Couch’s attorney argued that his parents–not him–were responsible for his reckless decisions. A psychologist testified that Couch was a product of his wealth who got whatever he wanted. He had no boundaries, and was permitted to drive at age 13 and drink at a very young age. He said that Couch received no punishment after he was found passed our in a parking lot with an undressed 14 year old girl, citing that as an example of the “freedoms no young person should have.” The argument was that he would be good as new with two years of treatment away from his parents rather than the 20-year sentence the prosecution was seeking for Couch’s horrific act.
The judge, despite the overwhelming evidence against Couch, agreed with that assessment that he was simply a victim of “Affluenza.” Allowing the teen to once again avoid any actual consequences with money, he sentenced the teen to ten years probation at a small inpatient facility where he can receive intensive one-on-one therapy. Couch’s father will foot the entire $450,000 bill.
Multiple civil suits are pending.