'Affluenza' Texan set for first appearance in adult court

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 13, 2016 9:21 AM

By Marice Richter

FORT WORTH, Texas (Reuters) - The so-called affluenza Texan is due to make his first appearance in adult court on Wednesday to determine his sentence for violating a juvenile probation deal imposed after he killed four while driving drunk outside Fort Worth.

Ethan Couch, 19, has been in a Tarrant County jail since January. He could face a sentence of about four months in jail for violating probation, county law enforcement authorities have said.

At his trial in juvenile court in 2013 when he was 16, a psychologist testifying on his behalf said Couch was so spoiled by his wealthy parents that he could not tell right from wrong. The psychologist described the affliction as "affluenza," a term that quickly became a media buzzword.

His sentence of 10 years' probation sparked outrage from critics who ridiculed the affluenza defense and said his family's wealth helped the teen stay out of jail.

Couch was taken into custody in Texas after he fled to Mexico in December with his mother, apparently to avoid arrest for violating the drink- and drug-free probation deal after video on social media appeared to show him at a party where alcohol was being consumed.

Taxpayers paid more than $150,000 of the $200,000 bill for the yearlong rehabilitation imposed as part of the sentence because his parents could not afford to pay for all of the treatment, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram said, citing court documents.

Couch, who was 16 when he killed four people with his pickup truck, will appear before Judge Wayne Salvant, who also is presiding over the case of his mother, Tonya Couch.

She is charged with helping her son flee to Mexico. She was released on bail but is under home confinement awaiting trial.

If convicted, she faces up to 10 years in prison.

(Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)