Ethan Couch, the affluenza teen who killed four in a 2013 Tarrant County drunk driving accident, must serve two years in Tarrant County jail, district Judge Wayne Salvant ruled Wednesday. Couch, whose sentence of 10 years probation after his conviction in juvenile court drew outrage, received the jail time in his first trip to court as an adult. He will remain on probation after serving his jail sentence.
Couch's case attracted international attention after a psychologist testifying on his behalf at his trial said the teen suffered from something the psychologist called "affluenza." Basically, psychologist G. Dick Miller said that Couch was unable to anticipate the consequences of his actions for himself or others because his wealthy parents never set any boundaries for him as he was growing up.
Couch, with the help of his mother, Tonya Couch, fled to Mexico late in 2015 after a video showing the teen playing beer pong surfaced on Twitter. Couch feared that his probation would be revoked — probationers, juvenile or otherwise, aren't allowed to drink alcohol — so he and his mother held a goodbye party and headed for Puerto Vallarta. After spending several weeks in the resort town, the Couches were caught after authorities traced an order for Domino's Pizza made from one of the Couches' smartphones. Tonya Couch returned to the United States on New Year's Eve. Ethan made it back in late January after giving up a battle against extradition.
As he fled to Mexico, Couch's probation was still being supervised by the juvenile court system, which meant his probation could only be revoked until April 11, 2016, his 19th birthday. Although he was not subject to any additional time for his flight, Couch was subject to a stay in county jail as a condition of his being transferred to the adult probation system. Wednesday, Salvant gave Couch the toughest sentence the judge believed he could hand out — 180 days for each of the four people Couch killed, to be served consecutively.
Couch's lawyers argued Wednesday that their client was only subject to 180 days total additional time, but Salvant agreed with prosecutors that Couch could be given stacked sentences, although the judge reserved the right to reconsider his ruling before the next hearing in the case, set for two weeks from today.
Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.