Texas teen Ethan Couch gets 10 years probation for driving drunk, killing 4

Drinking and driving

(CNN) — Victims’ families are angry and speaking out after a judge sentenced a teenager in Texas to 10 years’ probation for driving drunk and causing a crash that left two people severely injured and four others dead.

Ethan Couch, 16, was sentenced by a juvenile court judge on Tuesday. If he violates the terms of his probation, he could face up to 10 years behind bars, according to a statement from the Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney’s Office.

Judge Jean Boyd told the court she would not release Couch to his parents, but would work to find the teen a long-term treatment facility.

The sentence disappointed prosecutors and shocked victims’ family members, who say they feel that Couch got off too easy.

Eric Boyles, who lost his wife and daughter in the incident, had hoped for closure.

“Today could have been a good start at that. Unfortunately, the wounds that it opened only makes the healing process that much greater and more difficult,” CNN affiliate KTVT reported he said.

“We had over 180 years of life taken, future life not 180 years lived, but 180 years of future life taken and two of those were my wife and daughter.”

Hollie Boyles and her daughter, Shelby, left their home to help Breanna Mitchell, whose SUV had broken down. Brian Jennings was driving past and also stopped to help.

All four were killed when the teen’s pickup plowed into the pedestrians. Couch’s vehicle also struck a parked car, which then slid into another vehicle driving in the opposite direction.

Two people riding in the bed of the teen’s pickup were tossed in the crash and severely injured.

One is no longer able to move or talk because of a brain injury, while the other suffered internal injuries and broken bones.

Earlier on the night of June 15, Couch and some friends had stolen beer from a local Wal-Mart. Three hours after the crash, tests showed he had a blood alcohol content of 0.24, three times the legal limit, according to the district attorney’s office.

“We are disappointed by the punishment assessed but have no power under the law to change or overturn it. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and we regret that this outcome has added to the pain and suffering they have endured,” said Assistant District Attorney Richard Alpert.

Lawyers for Couch reportedly argued that the teen’s parents should share a part of the blame for the crash because they never set limits for the boy and gave him everything he wanted.

According to CNN affiliate WFAA, a psychologist called by the defense described Couch as a product of “affluenza.” He reportedly testified the teen’s family felt wealth bought privilege, and that Couch’s life could be turned around with one to two years of treatment and no contact with his parents.

“There is nothing the judge could have done to lessen the suffering for any of those families,” said defense attorney Scott Brown, KTVT reported.

“(The judge) fashioned a sentence that is going to keep Ethan under the thumb of the justice system for the next 10 years,” he said. “And if Ethan doesn’t do what he’s supposed to do, if he has one misstep at all, then this judge, or an adult judge when he’s transferred, can then incarcerate him.”

By Dana Ford with contribution from CNN’s Vivian Kuo.

54 comments

  • Black-Man-Here

    I have a brother that has been locked up since he was 17.My older brother got life in prison.So to see this happen to the 16 yr. old this makes me hate the judicial system because it seems to me that its MONEY OVER EVERYTHING….My brothers crime was similar to his but only one life was taken…smh

  • Hans Marco

    Don’t leave it up to God! The lawyer said the parents are at fault! The victims’ families, even those who weren’t killed, need to band together and drop a lawsuit on the parents for as much as possible. If no one settles they could probably ruin the family just like that stupid boy ruined theirs.

  • J Hoeppner

    ““There is nothing the judge could have done to lessen the suffering for any of those families,” said defense attorney Scott Brown, KTVT reported.” Are you kidding me? Are you really so arrogant that you actually believe that?!?

    While it may not be right, and goes against the concept of forgiveness, it is HUMAN to take a little satisfaction in knowing that a fitting consequence was handed down and for me it WOULD lessen the suffering just a tiny bit. Knowing that your loved ones lives’ were valued and deemed worthy of a proper punishment for the little brat would sure as hell make me feel a bit better. This kid only has to “suffer” for ten years. The families of those he killed will suffer for the rest of their lives. Judge Boyd and the defense attorney castigate the parents for not teaching this kid values and instilling a sense of responsibility as he was growing up, and then she goes and does the exact same thing by letting him walk. I don’t care if he ‘meant’ to do it or not–he got in a vehicle after committing a crime and he killed four people. He should BE. IN. JAIL.

  • patty

    OK, It’s the justice SYSTEM that is screwed. I believe the kid needs to go to prison for life. However, if he got a 20 year sentence, he could be out in 2 years (don’t understand how all that works) At least,this way, with the 10 years probation, he will eventually mess up again and then, hopefully will get the prison time he deservs. The kids “rehab and therapy” should not be a priority. I could care less aboug the kid. Again, the justice system, especially for juveniles is what is screwed. JUST TRYING TO BE LOGICAL.

  • meigon

    Marie you are a very ignorant person, its not about race or playing the race card or people being obsessed with race,Its about if you going to punish one child lightly for a harsh crime then you need to do the same for every child. Punish them the same way, that ignorant judge sentenced a fourteen yr old black boy to life, and he didn’t even kill any- body what makes there child any better then mines. All i am saying is be fair, and then I can respect the rules. Oh if it was my child I would want liency so I understand both sides but if it was my family murdered by a immature kids crazy mistake I would want blood but at the end of the day if my child did get punished I would want the same all the way around the board. Be Fair America Be Fair God is not a favorer of man and neither am I. Lord help us our mines are so poisoned!!!!!!!!!!

  • Min

    Absolutely disgusting. I hope each and every family member of the victims sue for 100 million a piece. Hurt rich people where it hurts, their wallets. I hope they destroy the company his father has. I also hope everyone with a heart decides to boycott this families construction conpany as well.

    • crazcat

      LOVE YOUR COMMENT AND TOTALLY AGREE. I THINK EVERYONE THAT HAS A LOVED ONE IN PRSION FOR LESS OFFENSE SHOULD BE SUING AND F ING GOD I JUST CANT SAY WHAT IS ON MY MIND RIGHT NOW. OR ALL AMERICANS SHOULD BE SUING ALOT MORE OF OUR GOVT THAN JUST THIS F ED JUDGE. TO MUCH LIENG AND WORSE GOING ON THESE DAYS!

  • amilne

    Are you kidding me? At 16 I was at home doing my homework or at a friends house. NOT getting drunk and certainly NOT driving. I just wonder why the prosecutor even allowed him to plead guilty. Why wouldn’t you file charges and try Couch as an adult then the sentence would have been an adult sentence. This guy is a waste of space and does not need to be sent to rehab, he just needs to be gone. He needs to be sent to jail 20 years for each life he took. I really don’t care that he is 16! And a helpful hint each and everyone injured and the family of the ones murdered need to file a civil suit and wipe out the Couch family’s finances. Seems like the only thing they know is money, then it needs to be taken away.

  • Andy

    There is in no way you can justify killing four people while drunk driving!! I’m close to his age and I would NEVER do something as stupid and ridiculous as that. He got off incredibly easy, probation? If I were in his shoes it is a fact that I would get life in prison, being my skin is black and my pockets are empty.

  • robert

    Are u serious? What about the victims families? Having to explain to ther lobed ones what happendd. Not seeing them anymore. Have u ever lost a loved one at the hands of someone else? Put urself in their shoes..yeah he kid will get bashed on and shit..but hey probation will probably mean going to school comming home doing homework and play his little fame counsel cuz he cant step foot outside…i mean ho wudnt want tht sentence but seriously..for one minute consider the victims family..this is a slap to

  • Debra Doug

    You are absolutely right Andy. There is justice and there’s just us. Please do everything you can to walk the straight and narrow. Get an education and stay out of trouble. The boy not only killed 4 people, he stole. He deserves to be punished. You would probably get 10 years just for stealing. I wish you the best and I appreciate that you recognize what’s really going on!!

  • Marie

    Believe it or not this isn’t about race. But let me guess. Your black. You people are obsessed with race. I see you guys getting away with everything lately. Just shut up. If the kid was black he probably wouldn’t have even gotten probabtion. He’d be completely free.

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