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