Ethan Couch, the Texas teenager whose “affluenza” defense in a fatal drunk-driving crash prompted national outrage, will remain in jail for nearly two years, the Associated Press reported.
“You’re not getting out of jail today,” state District Judge Wayne Salvant told Couch on Wednesday, the Dallas Morning News reported.
Salvant said that for now, he was ordering Couch to serve 180 consecutive days in jail for each of his four counts of intoxication manslaughter, the newspaper reported. The judge may revise the sentence in a few weeks after reviewing prosecutors’ and defense attorneys’ recommendations, he said.
The charges stem from a 2013 drunk-driving crash that left four dead. At the time, Couch was a juvenile and was sentenced to probation.
Couch turned 19 this week; this is his first time appearing in adult court.
A psychologist who testified in Couch’s defense argued during his trial that the teen was a victim of “affluenza” — his wealthy upbringing made him unaware and ignorant of the consequences of such actions.
Couch became the subject of an international manhunt last year when he left the country, in violation of his probation. Both he and his mother were found in Mexico.
His mother, Tonya Couch, has been charged with hindering apprehension of a felon.
In June 2013, Couch, then 16, crashed his pickup truck at more than 65 mph into a group of people who had stopped to help a stranded motorist. The motorist was killed, as was a youth minister who had stopped to help and a mother and daughter who had emerged from their nearby home, according to the Associated Press.
Two teens who were in Couch’s truck were seriously injured.
Authorities said his blood-alcohol level was three times the legal limit and that he had traces of Valium in his system. Couch pleaded guilty to manslaughter and assault while intoxicated.
He was initially tried in juvenile court, where he was sentenced to 10 years of drug-and-alcohol-free probation — triggering widespread outrage.
His 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 said contributed to his reckless behavior.
At trial, his psychologist argued that Couch suffered from “affluenza.”
“Instead of the golden rule, which was ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you,’ [Couch] was taught we have the gold, we make the rules at the Couch household,” G. Dick Miller testified in court, according to ABC News.
For instance, Miller said, at age 13 Couch was allowed to drive himself to school. When a teacher objected, Miller said, the boy’s father replied, “‘I’ll buy the school,’ or something along that line,” according to the network. His parents ultimately opted to pull him out and home-school him.
“He was never safe, and to me, a child needs to be safe from day one,” Miller said, according to ABC News.
Miller said Couch’s parents “had an adversarial relationship” and that every time they had a fight, they took him to Toys “R” Us and tried to buy his happiness.
Authorities said Couch’s parents have divorced.
According to the Associated Press, Fred Couch attended Wednesday’s hearing but did not respond to questions as he left the courthouse.