Ethan Couch, the Texas teenager who argued he suffered from “affluenza” and therefore shouldn’t be sent to prison for killing four people and injuring nine others with his vehicle, was ordered Wednesday to serve probation at a Texas rehab facility that his wealthy parents will pay for.
Ethan’s case drew outrage in December when a judge sentenced the 16-year-old to probation. His lawyers admitted he was drunk and killed four people in the June 15 accident, but argued that he was a privileged child who was never punished by his parents, which meant he never learned the consequences of his actions and that probation would be a more appropriate sentence. Dr. G. Dick Miller, a psychologist testifying on Ethan’s behalf, said the boy suffered from “affluenza,” and pointed to a time when Ethan was 14 years old and was found in a parked pickup truck with a naked girl but was never disciplined by his parents for it.
Ethan’s attorney, Reagan Wynn, blamed the media for the criticism that came his client’s way while the sentence was slammed by the victims’ families.
"No matter where he goes, no matter what game he or his family think they've beaten, the world is never going to take their eyes off of him," Marla Mitchell, whose daughter was killed in the crash, told NBC Dallas-Fort Worth.
Wynn accused the media of oversimplifying the case. He said reporters had “so twisted the facts that were actually presented in court that I don't think the truth will ever be able to come out now,” according to USA Today.
"It was ridiculous to think that we walked into court and said, 'Oh, this is a rich white kid,' and she decided to probate him," Wynn added.
But Richard Alpert, the prosecutor, said the blowback from “affluenza” was Wynn’s doing for putting up a witness who coined the term.
"His witnesses don't say things by accident," Alpert said. "So they thought maybe that would help — that's my interpretation — and it blew up on them. It was a stupid thing to say."
Before the judge’s sentence, Ethan’s parents offered to pay for treatment at a posh $450,000-a-year rehab center in California. But NBC Dallas-Fort Worth reported that Ethan is headed to a facility in Texas. The boy’s lawyer said the judge didn’t specify a minimum amount of time that the teen must stay in rehab. Conditions of Ethan’s probation prevent him from driving and using drugs or alcohol. He also faces prison time if he runs away from rehab, Alpert told USA Today.