“I’m Outta Here”: Wealthy Texas Teen Kills Four People, Seriously Injures Others, In DUI Case . . . Given Probation and No Jail Time

250px-Richie_Rich_comic_No_1There is a bizarre case out of Texas where Ethan Couch, 16, was facing 20 years for killing four people in a drunk driving incident. His wealthy family hired a top gun trial attorney and leading expert who invoked what could be called the Richie Rich defense — Couch’s long spoiled lifestyle in the top one percent left him uncaring and irresponsible . . . and left four people dead. It would seem the type of argument that would produce a lynching rather than a light sentence in front of most juries. However, Couch was in front of State District Judge Jean Boyd, who sentenced him to probation and therapy. Couch, it turns out, predicted the outcome. Described as non-cooperative at the accident scene, he reportedly said “I’m Outta here” and walked away.

Couch pleaded guilty to driving drunk and could certainly expect a reduction in light of the plea. However, few people expected no jail time. However, the defense insisted that what Couch needed was therapy and argued that such therapy would cost more than $450,000 a year at a rehabilitation facility near Newport Beach, California– which would be paid by his wealthy parents. Half a million a year? That is the highest claim that I have encountered in such cases.

At trial, the defense expert Gary Miller trashed the parents as messing up their son, particularly after a bitter divorce. The father was described as someone who “does not have relationships, he takes hostages.” The mother was described as a materialistic individual right out of Bonfire of the Vanities with a “mantra was that if it feels good, do it.” The accident fittingly occurred on Father’s Day.

Miller insisted that Couch basically raised himself. An ironic argument since he would have received more jail time as an abusive parent than as the killer for four people in this case.

As a result, Couch walked despite a plea to four counts of intoxication manslaughter and two counts of intoxication assault causing serious bodily injury. Couch had seven passengers in his Ford F-350. Seven. Two were riding in his bed of the truck. Those two kids were seriously injured. Solimon Mohmand had extensive broken bones and internal injuries while Sergio Molina remains paralyzed and communicates by blinking his eyes. Therapy is not going to do much for Molina.

131211204106-ac-intv-boyles-teen-drunk-driver-probation-00010519-story-bodyDjF8o.St.58The dead included Breanna Mitchell who was by the side of the road with a broken car; Hollie and Shelby Boyles (right), who came out of their homes to help Mitchell; and Burleson youth minister Brian Jennings (shown left), a passer-by who had also stopped to help. Couch was going 70 miles an hour (in a 40 miles an hour zone) when he smashed into the car.

Couch had a BAL that was three times the legal limit as well as Valium in his system.

He appears narcissistic and spoiled but one would think that holding him accountable would have tremendous therapeutic value. If not, it would do wonders for the families of the victims.

Yet, Couch asked for the judge to sentence him — a smart move.

The irony did not escape Tarrant County assistant district attorney who noted that under this “too spoiled to care” defense “[t]here can be no doubt that he will be in another courthouse one day blaming the lenient treatment he received here.”

2pics_richgirlNow Couch can move on with this life. One possible dating prospect can be found in New York with Rachael Sacks who attracted a firestorm with a published essay on why “I’m Not Going To Pretend That I’m Poor To Be Accepted By You” . Sacks has words that might resonate with Master Couch: “People have been very mean to me. But people have been mean to me my whole life, so what. They think I’m a spoiled brat, and I am.”

There has been no public word from the parents who were featured so prominently in their son’s defense and candidates for the worst parents — let along people — in the world. Judging from the expert testimony, the response to the verdict of the mother was likely something like this:

The father was also no doubt celebrating:

115 thoughts on ““I’m Outta Here”: Wealthy Texas Teen Kills Four People, Seriously Injures Others, In DUI Case . . . Given Probation and No Jail Time”

  1. Not to play 1%er’s advocate here, but look at the facts. His parents are wealthy and so they can afford to pay for $450,000 of therapy. The state would not do very much for him. He would go to prison and his life would essentially be ruined. Then he’d get out at 36 having missed out on life, old enough to drink, and possibly still with a living allowance from his wealthy family. Sounds like the perfect recipe for a guy who just drinks and drives around all the time. Wasted life. The purpose of sentencing is to do what it best for public safety. Sometimes it is to teach people a lesson through loss of freedom. But the purpose is not revenge, (except in death penalty cases, as no other reason for execution seems to make much sense).

    On the other hand, he can save the state the money for housing him and go get therapy on his families dollar, continue on with a basically normal youthful path with threat of imprisonment hanging over his head if he does go awry and commit another crime as he’d be on probation for a decade. Sounds like a good recipe for a person to focus on things that won’t get him into trouble, like school and eventually a career.

    Being rich affords a person the ability to act more adult at a younger age than a poor person. He was driving, drinking, apparently having sex. He was still a 16 year old.

    Does it suck that a black teen of little means would get the ‘revenge’ treatment we all expect from court? Yes. So focus more on people getting thrown away because they have little money or social capital. In this case, the kid can afford to pay for his own rehabilitation and salvage his life. To prevent that from happening when it’s more effective than what the state would do with him isn’t as pragmatic. You might think it’s good revenge to have the guy become a loser, but will turning him into a loser somehow -lower- his threat to the public?

  2. Didn’t we learn anything from the OJ trial? This problem is not about race – it’s about HOW MUCH MONEY YOU HAVE. Rich black men can buy their freedom just like rich white folks can.

    This rich texas kid faces no consequences because his parents had the connections and money to keep him from being tried as an adult.

    We have not seen the last of this kid. He will screw up again and when he does……maybe it will be the catalist to wake up the masses and start the revolution that is inevitablly in America’s future as the rich 1% throw the rest of us into poverty……and their privately owned prisons.

    The black folks and the white folks are going to have to band together and look beyond race because it divides us and keeps us from gaining any power against the 1%. America is a very scary place to live in these times. The gap between rich and poor – especially in Houston, Texas is appauling.

  3. Whether you believe in the judiciary system or not, this case is a tough one to swallow. What is the value of a life? 4 lives? What about those tragically injured in the bed of his truck?

    I pray for the families.

  4. Here’s a question nobody seems to be asking:

    The psychologist that testified on his behalf, HOW MUCH DID HE BILL THE DEFENSE FOR HIS EXPERT TESTIMONY? Would this psychologist be willing to testify in court on behalf of some poor black kid that can’t afford to pay him? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

  5. Robbin,

    Start one for the removal of the prosecuting attorney and I’m in….

  6. This boy needs to be flown to El Salvador on an all expenses paid vacation. Upon arrival he needs to be given a case of beer and the keys to a rental car. A first time offense of DWI in El Salvador leads to execution by firing squad. No therapy and no defense of “Affluenza”.

  7. Reblogged this on Shouts from the Abyss and commented:
    Three times the legal limit and a deplorable let-them-eat-cake attitude and mentality. This is a case that also makes me question the wisdom of exemptions for certain criminal behaviors based on age. If there was ever a case where someone needed to be tried as an adult this is it. Tragic, senseless and outrageous.

  8. As I was reading, I was thinking what fiver said. Just wanted you to know you weren’t alone in your assessment.

  9. Are you kidding me? Does anyone wonder? $450,000 for rehab. How much did the judge get?

  10. While this is sure to be an unpopular opinion – especially in the “lock the door and throw the key away” climate of the United States – it does need to be emphasized that we are dealing with a juvenile here. Juveniles are not just mini adults; they are, legally and literally, children. Treating children differently than adults in a separate juvenile criminal justice system was a great advance in our legal system, an advance that should not be discounted no matter the natural desire for retribution that arises in such tragic circumstances.

    While I understand that it is quite likely – especially in Texas – that a poor child of color would be treated quite differently, this does not justify simply throwing another child on to the dung heap that is our historically unjust prison system. Rather, this instance should be an argument for treating poor children, who are often reclassified as “adults” in these circumstances, as children in a system designed for children.

    It is likely that the clout of the parents was of more use in keeping the sixteen year old in the juvenile system (as opposed to being tried as an adult) rather than the admittedly silly success of the so called “affluenza” argument. Once the defendant was kept in the juvenile system, the judge’s options were, by design, limited. From the Star-Telegram:

    “Scott Brown, the teen’s lead defense attorney, said the teen could have been freed after two years if he had drawn the 20-year sentence. Instead, the judge “fashioned a sentence that could have him under the thumb of the justice system for the next 10 years,” he told the Star-Telegram.”

    While the 20 year sentence might have looked good on the prosecutor’s trophy wall, the practical result would likely have been quite a bit less than is being demanded by the hard-liners. With this sentence, the teen will be under the control of the probationary system, and, should he violate that probation, he could be sent to prison for ten years. He will also be receiving what is likely to be better and more effective treatment than would be possible were his parents not rich. From the same article:

    “As reported by the Star-Telegram on Wednesday, Boyd said that programs available in the Texas juvenile justice system might not provide the intensive therapy the teen could receive at a rehabilitation center in California as proposed by the defense. The parents agreed to pay for treatment, which was estimated to cost about $450,000.

    “He will stay in Tarrant County juvenile detention until the juvenile probation department prepares a report about treatment options. If he violates the probation, he could be sent to prison for 10 years. [bold added]”

    I get that one point of this piece is inequality, and I agree with that point wholeheartedly. But the numerous calls for a pound of flesh from this kid do not put a single bankster or torturer in prison. Sure, the rich receive better treatment from our legal system, but calling for rich children to be treated in the manifestly unjust way we treat the poor is not progress. Rather we should strive for similar justice to be applied universally.

    I also request that Mr. Turley consider removing the juvenile’s name from this piece.

  11. The judge who granted this pass should be audited by the IRS for the next 10 years+ and the prosecution should appeal.

    I’m actually kinda stunned no one else here has made this suggestion.

  12. I assume “affluence” was plead by Mr. Allen’s attorney as an affirmative defense in the penalty phase of the juvenile proceeding, The State futzed up by the numbers in this case. First, The State of Texas should have
    gotten Allen waived from Juvenile to Adult Criminal Justice system. Here,
    on the facts of the case and, looking ahead, the potential outcome and consequences of not doing so, should have have been very apparent to the State’s legal team. Mr. Allen’s attorneys “Gamed the system from the start and outsmarted the State’s legal team. That is what comes of having money to buy the best legal defense your parents can afford. So, too bad, so sorry, nuff said, poo poo happens, move on folks noting to do now but move on. . Of course, if you follow this case along, the next phase of the
    case may offend your collective senses of justice and fairness even more so. Allen’s parents most likely have or will insulate their wealth in trusts in order to to keep it out of the hands of the judgment creditors who may sue them and Mr. Allen.

    What drove the outcome of the case was this. Allen was tried as a juvenile, not an adult. In all our states that is why juvenile justice is not the same as adult criminal justice and there are different standards of fairness, equity, and justice. The victims’ rights are always, always subordinated to the juvenile’s rights because of our historical and religious the mantra of rehab-ilitation,

    Second, in the penalty phase regardless of the fact the rules of evidence are the same or similar, it is a bench trial not a jury trial, and a judge, not a jury hears and weighs the evidence. In this case, the State attorneys let the Defense get considered a questionable pie theory of affluence as a valid affirmative defense. Myself I prefer to call it the Richie Rich defense, it has a less medico-legal ring to it. The State’s attorneys apparently did introduce or use their own experts and any expert testimony to refute or impeach the defense’s evidence. You would have to read the record and trial transcript and this friends you cannot do. you cannot do so. Juvenile proceedings, remember?

    One final one from a kibbutzer. Hey,State attorneys, did you even consider pretrial discovery? Did you consider witness and exhibits lists? Did you use any of them in this case?

  13. He was in JUVINILE court not adult court so had he been sentenced to the 20 years( 5 years per life) NOT ENOUGH IN THE FIRST PLACE he would have likely been FREE in 2 years. His record sealed. He should have been tried as an adult .

  14. Skip,

    You are correct as I understand it… But the attorney general Gregg Abbott who’s running for governor has indicated that he will seek to intervene….. This right is very muddy in the state of Texas…. Especially if this was treated as a juvenile case it’s all a civil matter…. No specific right to appeal an action such as this….. So the legislature may intervene….. When they are in session….. There are folks calling for the judges head…. They still have the civil remedy to sue the parents as owner of the vehicle…..

    Here’s an interesting article……


  15. The sentence can’t be appealed under double jeopardy, but the families are certainly in their rights ti bring wrongful death suits. If the parents’ behavior was his defense, then it’s certainly proper that they be sued by those affected by his actions.

  16. How much will the judge get. No wonder she is going to retire. I will tell everyone I know her name and her story. She will become infamous!

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