A judge has ordered Ethan Couch, the so-called “affluenza” teen, to serve nearly two years in jail after breaking his probation on drunken-driving homicide charges.
The teen, who turned 19 on Monday, will serve four consecutive 180-day jail sentences, one for each of the four people he killed in the 2013 Texas crash, a sentence that far exceeded what prosecutors initially sought.
“You’re not getting out of jail today,” District Judge Wayne Salvant told Couch, who appeared in adult court for the first time Wednesday at Tarrant County Courthouse in Fort Worth.
At Couch’s trial in juvenile court in 2013, a psychologist testified that the then-16-year-old was so spoiled by his wealthy parents that he could not tell right from wrong, describing the condition as “affluenza.”
He was sentenced to 10 years probation, during which he was to remain alcohol- and drug-free, though he seemingly violated those terms and then further broke the conditions of his freedom by fleeing to Mexico.
The initial light sentence outraged critics across the country who said Couch’s family wealth helped keep him out of jail.
Prosecutors had said during the walk-up to Wednesday’s hearing that they didn’t expect to have Couch imprisoned for more than a few months for a juvenile probation violation, even in adult court — this despite warning that Couch could serve decades in prison for any future violations of his probation as an adult.
But late in Wednesday’s hearing, they asked Judge Salvant to impose the six-month sentences on the basis of a separate Texas law covering probation in felony cases.
“Nothing I do is in stone, so I might reconsider,” Judge Salvant told Couch, bearded and in a red jail suit.
He then told both teams of lawyers he would officially pronounce the sentence as final in two weeks, and they had that period to “convince me that I’m wrong or tell me something else that I might need as far as probation.”
Prosecutors and defense lawyers each declined to comment afterward on the case, on which Judge Salvant has imposed a gag order.
Meanwhile this week, court documents reveal that Texas taxpayers picked up most of the $200,000 bill for Couch’s court-ordered rehabilitation program.
Taxpayers paid more than $150,000 to cover the cost of Couch’s yearlong rehabilitation because his parents — despite purportedly being able to inflict the teen with excessive affluence — were unable to pay for all of the treatment, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported, citing court documents.
In December, Couch and his mother Tonya fled Texas for Mexico after a video on social media appeared to show the teen at a party where alcohol was being consumed.
Couch has been in custody since he and his mother were brought back from Mexico in January. Mrs. Couch could face up to 10 years in prison for helping her son flee.
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