"Affluenza Defense" Teen Manhunt: The Drunk Driving Teen, Ethan Couch, and the Deaths and Trial that made him Infamous.

December 22, 2015

Infamous Texan juvenile defendant Ethan Couch is back in the news - this time as a fugitive. A payday awaits anyone who can help the U.S. Marshals Service find the teen who is suspected of violating his probation and possibly fleeing the country. Agents are offering a $5,000 reward for information that leads to the whereabouts or arrest of Ethan Couch, the 18-year-old Texan who known as the "affluenza teen." Couch first made headlines in 2013 when he avoided jail time for a DUI manslaughter conviction that killed four people after his lawyers successfully argued that the teen's privilege kept him from knowing right from wrong. Couch's family is reported to be worth millions, thanks in part to a booming sheet metal business. It's their success -- and the way they have handled it -- that Couch's attorneys argued contributed to the teen's reckless behavior.

 

Couch was sentenced to 10 years of probation but failed to appear at a Dec. 11 hearing after a video emerged claiming to show him playing beer pong. An arrest warrant for the Fort Worth-area teenager was issued the same day. When authorities dropped by the teenager's house that he shared with his mother, they found the home empty except for a pinball machine, according to the New York Daily News.The U.S. Marshals Service joined the search for Couch this week, and the FBI has been in contact with local authorities to see how the agency can assist.

 

BACKGROUND

 

Ethan Anthony Couch (born April 11, 1997) is an American teen who killed four pedestrians and seriously injured two others while driving drunk near Fort Worth, Texas in June 2013. He was 16 years old at the time and was subsequently convicted of charges stemming from the deaths and sentenced to 10 years probation. In December 2013, Judge Jean Hudson Boyd sentenced Couch to therapy at a long-term, in-patient facility,after his attorneys successfully argued that the teen suffered from "affluenza" and needed rehabilitation instead of prison. His sentence set off what the New York Times called "an emotional, angry debate that has stretched far beyond the North Texas suburbs". Couch became the subject of a manhunt and was listed in the National Fugitive Database on December 11, 2015 after his probation officer was unable to contact him.

 

 

CRASH, TRIAL, AND SENTENCE

 

On Saturday, June 15, 2013, according to authorities and trial testimony, Couch was witnessed on surveillance video stealing two cases of beer from a Walmart store, driving with seven passengers in his father's Ford F-350 pickup truck, and speeding (70 MPH in a designated 40 MPH zone). Three hours after the incident, he had a blood alcohol content of 0.24, three times the legal limit for adult drivers in Texas, and tested positive for Valium.

 

Approximately an hour after the beer theft, Couch was driving his father's truck at 70 MPH on a dark, rural road where motorist Breanna Mitchell's sport utility vehicle had stalled. Hollie Boyles and her daughter Shelby, who lived nearby, had come out to help her, as had passing youth minister Brian Jennings. Couch's truck swerved off the road and into Mitchell's SUV, then plowed into Jennings' parked car, which in turn hit an oncoming Volkswagen Beetle. The truck then flipped over and hit a tree. Mitchell, Jennings, and both Hollie and Shelby Boyles were killed, while Couch and his seven teen passengers (none wearing seat belts) survived, as did the two children in Jennings' car and the two people in the Volkswagen.

 

G. Dick Miller, a psychologist hired as an expert by the defense, testified in court that the teen was a product of "affluenza" and was unable to link his bad behavior with consequences because of his parents teaching him that wealth buys privilege. It was initially reported that, as part of his sentencing, their son would be sent for teen substance abuse and mental health rehabilitation to Newport Academy, an upscale residential treatment center in Newport Beach, California with luxurious costs upwards of $450,000 annually.The facility offers a 90-day treatment program that includes horse riding, mixed martial arts, massage and cookery, a swimming pool, basketball and six acres of land.

 

Following a court hearing closed to the public, Judge Jean Hudson Boyd instead sentenced Couch to an unspecified lock down rehabilitation facility where his parents will pay; the time Couch will have to stay there was also unspecified. Couch was ordered to avoid using drugs or alcohol or driving. A hearing on April 11, 2014, revealed that on February 19, 2014, Couch began treatment "at the North Texas State Hospital, a state-owned in-patient mental health facility" in Vernon, Texas. Although the daily rate for the treatment facility is $715, Couch's parents were ordered to pay $1,170 per month for his stay there, based on the state's sliding-scale payment schedule. The amount ordered is the maximum allowed on the payment schedule. Couch's parents promised in court to pay the requested fee for their son's treatment.

 

At least one relative of the crash victims has complained of the lightness of Couch's sentence and that Couch had expressed no remorse. Six civil lawsuits were filed by families of the four victims and two of the passengers between September and November 2013 against Couch, his family, and Cleburne Metal Works (doing business as Cleburne Sheet Metal, as the truck's registered owner). The first lawsuit was filed by Maria Lemus and Sergio Molina on behalf of their son Sergio E. Molina, who was riding in the bed of Couch's truck and suffered a traumatic brain injury and remains hospitalized. According to the suit petition, Molina's medical expenses exceeded an estimated $600,000 at the time and could top $10 million if he needs round-the-clock care.

 

Article compiled from http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/ct-affluenza-teen-fugitive-ethan-couch-reward-20151220-story.html and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethan_Couch

 

 

Fanning Law, LLC Can Help

We assist individuals and families with family law issues and other legal concerns in Southern Maryland, Washington DC, and throughout the region.  For more information about how Fanning Law, LLC can help you and your family, contact Bill Fanning at Fanning Law, LLC - The Offices of William C. Fanning, Jr. - 301.934.3620 or at www.fanninglawllc.com.

 

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