FORT WORTH – The Texas teenager who used an “affluenza” defense in a fatal drunken-driving wreck has been ordered to spend nearly two years in jail.
State District Judge Wayne Salvant said Wednesday that Ethan Couch, 19, must spend 180 days in jail for each of the four people he killed in 2013 when he rammed a pickup truck into a crowd of people helping a motorist. The sentences will be served consecutively
It was Couch’s first appearance in an adult court.
Couch was 16 and his blood-alcohol level was three times above the legal limit for adult drivers when the crash occurred.
Couch got 10 years’ probation in juvenile court for the June 2013 wreck that left four dead and two severely injured. He landed in jail after he fled with his mother, Tonya, to Mexico when a video surfaced online showing Couch apparently at a party where alcohol was being served. Drinking alcohol is a violation of Couch’s probation.
The two were apprehended in Mexico in December and brought back to Texas in January. Ethan Couch has been has been in custody since.
He was transferred out of the juvenile system and into an adult jail in February.
When the December video of Couch at a party surfaced online, authorities say Couch’s mother, Tonya, arranged for the two of them to flee to Mexico.
They were found a few weeks later in the Mexican resort city of Puerto Vallarta. Ethan Couch appeared to have grown a beard and dyed his hair black.
Tonya Couch is charged with hindering the apprehension of a felon, with the possibility of two to 10 years in prison if convicted. She is currently under house arrest.
Salvant is also the judge in her case.
Couch lost control as he drove his family’s pickup truck after he and his friends had played beer pong and drank beer that some of them had stolen from a Wal-Mart. He veered into a crowd of people helping the driver of a disabled vehicle on the side of the road. Authorities later estimated that he was going 70 mph in a 40 mph zone.
The crash fatally injured the stranded motorist, a youth minister who stopped to help her and a mother and daughter who came out of their nearby home.
Couch was found to have had a blood-alcohol level three times the legal limit for adult drivers.
State District Judge Jean Boyd gave Couch 10 years of probation, a sentence that outraged victims’ relatives and prosecutors who had wanted prison time.
During Couch’s trial a defense psychologist, Dr. Dick Miller, testified that Couch had been coddled into a dangerous sense of irresponsibility by his wealthy parents. Miller used the term “affluenza,” which has stuck with the case ever since.