There's no doubt that Ethan Couch, 16, is guilty of drunkenly killing four people in a deadly car crash in Burleson. Last week, the teen pleaded guilty to four counts of intoxication manslaughter stemming from a June 15 wreck in which his Ford pickup, going 70 in a 40-mph zone, veered off the road, killing youth pastor Brian Jennings and three others who were gathered along the side of Burleson-Retta Road to change a flat tire.
Nine others were injured, including two of Couch's passengers. One, Sergio Molina, suffered a severe brain injury and, according to prosecutors, is no longer able to move or talk, according to prosecutors. Couch's blood alcohol content was .24, three times the legal limit.
The open question, then, is whether Couch should have received a harsher punishment. On Tuesday, Tarrant County District Judge Jean Boyd sentenced the teen to 10 years probation, with a mandatory stint in a long-term treatment center, likely to be a $450,000-per-year facility near Newport Beach, California.
Victims' families were dismayed by the verdict, chalking it up to Couch's parents' money. Gawker was incredulous as well, noting that the judge apparently bought the defense's case that Couch was a victim of "affluenza," a kid whose prior misdeeds and indiscretions went unpunished by his parents. He was allowed to begin driving at 13, his attorneys argued in court. When he was 15, he was found in a parked pickup with a passed-out, undressed 14-year-old girl. Aside from the ticket he received from police, he was not punished.
We'll leave the final word to assistant district attorney Richard Alpert, who issued a warning to the court in his closing arguments: "There can be no doubt that he will be in another courthouse one day blaming the lenient treatment he received here."
Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.