‘Affluenza Teen’ Released From Jail After Two Years

April 2, 2018
By David Lee

FORT WORTH, Texas (CN) – “Affluenza” killer Ethan Couch was released from a Texas jail Monday, five years after he killed four people while driving drunk as a juvenile and two years after being imprisoned for violating parole by fleeing to Mexico.

Couch, 20, wore a blue shirt and black hoodie as he was led out of the Tarrant County Corrections Center by his attorneys, Scott Brown and Reagan Wynne, in downtown Fort Worth. Couch was silent as he was surrounded by a large scrum of reporters while news helicopters swarmed overhead.

Couch first made headlines in 2013 as a 16-year-old when former Tarrant County Judge Jean Boyd sentenced him to only 10 years probation and therapy for driving a truck into a crowd of people assisting a stranded vehicle on the side of a road in south Fort Worth. He had faced up to 20 years in state prison on manslaughter charges.

He killed mother and daughter Hollie and Shelby Boyles, youth pastor Brian Jennings and Breanna Mitchell, while seriously injuring several others.

A defense psychologist testified at trial that Couch was the product of “affluenza,” that his family felt their wealth bought privilege and that where was no rational connection between behavior and consequences.

Couch made news again in 2015 when a damning video appeared on social medial showing someone closely resembling him at a beer pong game, which would have been a juvenile parole violation since he was banned from drinking alcohol.

He and his mother, Tonya Couch, were arrested in Puerto Vallarta in December 2015.

She is currently held in the same county jail, awaiting a May trial on charges of money laundering and hindering the apprehension of a fugitive.

Ethan’s father, Fred Couch, was sentenced in December 2016 to one year of probation for impersonating a police officer in an unrelated incident with police in the suburb of North Richland Hills.

Upon deportation from Mexico in 2016, Couch was transferred to adult criminal court and he was sentenced to 180 days in county jail for each of the four people he killed – the maximum sentence allowed under the conditions of his parole. A subsequent appeal of his sentence to the Texas Supreme Court was rejected in April 2017.

Couch will now serve six years of probation, his attorneys said.

“From the beginning, Ethan has admitted his conduct, accepted responsibility for his actions, and felt true remorse for the terrible consequences of those actions,” they said in a written statement. “Now, nearly five years after this horrific event, Ethan does not wish to draw attention to himself.”

Couch is required to wear an alcohol monitor and must stay home between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. every day. He must also subject himself to monitoring by a substance abuse patch and drug testing and is banned from driving a car without camera-equipped ignition locks, according to a court filing.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving said the conditions of Couch’s parole are of “small consolation” regarding the victims of the tragedy.

“Two years in jail for four people killed is a grave injustice to the victims and their families who have been dealt life sentences because of one person’s devastating decision to drink and drive,” MADD said in a written statement. “The 720 days Ethan Couch served for his crimes shows that drunk driving homicides still aren’t treated as the violent crimes that they are.”

From Courthouse News.

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‘Affluenza’ Killer’s Appeal Tossed – Again

April 14, 2017
By David Lee

AUSTIN (CN) – The Texas Supreme Court refused to hear “affluenza” killer Ethan Couch’s appeal, leaving him to serve the remainder of his two-year sentence for fleeing to Mexico while on juvenile probation.

The high court denied Couch’s petition of mandamus on Thursday. Couch, 20, has fought his incarceration for the past year. In April of last year, Tarrant County Judge Wayne Salvant sentenced him to 180 days for each of the four people he killed while driving drunk as a juvenile.

Couch became a household name in 2013 when former Tarrant County Judge Jean Boyd sentenced him to just 10 years probation and therapy after he drunkenly drove into a crowd of people assisting with a stranded vehicle on the side of the road in south Fort Worth.

He killed mother and daughter Hollie and Shelby Boyles, youth pastor Brian Jennings and Breanna Mitchell, while seriously injuring several others.

A defense psychologist testified at trial that Couch was a product of “affluenza” – that his family felt their wealth bought privilege and that there was no rational link between behavior and consequences. Couch could have been sentenced to up to 20 years in state prison for the offense.

Couch made headlines again in 2015 when a video appeared on social media showing someone who closely resembled him at a beer pong game, which would have been a parole violation since he was banned from drinking alcohol while on juvenile probation. He and his mother, Tonya Couch, were arrested in Puerto Vallarta in December 2015. She is awaiting trial on charges of money laundering and hindering the apprehension of a fugitive.

Since his jailing, Couch’s lawyers have argued that Salvant did not have jurisdiction over the case because it was transferred to him from juvenile court. According to the attorneys, this converts the case from a criminal to a civil matter.

“The Texas legislature specifically failed to provide for or allow transfer to a ‘criminal district court’ having only civil jurisdiction in the determinate sentencing scenario at issue in this case,” a plea to the jurisdiction filed in last April states.

A visiting judge denied the defense’s attempt to remove Salvant in September 2016. A subsequent appeal to the Second Court of Appeals in Fort Worth was denied in February.

From Courthouse News.

‘Affluenza’ Killer Not Entitled to New Judge

September 30, 2016
By David Lee
FORT WORTH (CN) — “Affluenza” killer Ethan Couch’s attempt to be released from jail was unsuccessful after his motion for a new judge was denied Thursday.
In rejecting the motion, Judge David L. Evans was not persuaded by Couch’s attorneys at a Tuesday hearing that the transfer of Couch’s juvenile probation to Judge Wayne Salvant’s adult criminal court was incorrect, because such transfers are civil cases.
Salvant sentenced Couch, 19, to nearly two years in county jail in April for violating the conditions of his juvenile parole soon after the case was transferred to his court.
The sentence was based on 180 days for each of the four people Couch killed while driving drunk as a juvenile – mother and daughter Hollie and Shelby Boyles, youth pastor Brian Jennings and Breanna Mitchell.
Several other people were seriously injured when the truck Couch was driving plowed into a crowd that was helping a stranded vehicle in south Fort Worth three years ago.
Public outrage grew when former judge Jean Boyd sentenced him to only 10 years probation and therapy.
A defense psychologist testified at trial that Couch was a product of “affluenza” – that his family felt their wealth bought privilege and that there was no rational link between behavior and consequences. Couch had faced up to 20 years in state prison.
Couch got in trouble again last year when he and his mother Tonya, 48, fled to Mexico after a video was posted on Twitter that showed someone who resembles Couch at a beer pong game. Couch was banned from drinking alcohol under the terms of his probation at the time.
The duo was arrested in Puerto Vallarta in December, and Couch’s mother was deported days after her arrest. Couch initially fought deportation to Texas but dropped his case in Mexican court and was deported on Jan. 29.
Couch’s attorneys filed for his release last month, arguing Salvant’s “criminal district court” is not a “district court” and that its jurisdiction is limited to criminal matters. Salvant asked Evans to rule on the request.
Wm. Reagan Wynn, with Kearney Wynn of Fort Worth, told Evans during Tuesday’s hearing that Salvant should be removed from the case because of a “conflict of interest” resulting from the possibility that Couch could sue for illegally jailing him.
Prosecutors responded that the litigation threat “does not make any sense” and that there is “no disputing” the case stopped being a civil case when it was transferred.

From Courthouse News.

‘Affluenza’ Killer Wants to Sue Over Jail Sentence

September 27, 2016
By David Lee
FORT WORTH, Texas (CN) – In a bid to spring their client from jail, attorneys for “affluenza” killer Ethan Couch said Tuesday that Couch could sue a criminal court judge for sentencing him to nearly two years in county jail.
Wm. Reagan Wynn, with Kearney Wynn of Fort Worth, told visiting Judge David L. Evans that the transfer of Couch’s juvenile probation to an adult criminal court was incorrect, that such transfers are civil cases.
Wynn said state District Judge Wayne Salvant lacked the subject matter jurisdiction to sentence Couch and that “there’s an argument” his client has been illegally jailed for months. He also said Salvant should be removed from the case due to the resulting conflict of interest.
A bearded Couch sat silently by his attorneys during the hearing, clad in a red county jail jumpsuit.
Tarrant County Assistant District Attorney Richard Alpert disagreed, saying there is “no disputing” that Couch’s case stopped being a civil matter when it was transferred to Salvant’s court. He said the defense’s argument of suing the judge “does not make any sense.”
Salvant sentenced Couch, 19, in April for violating the conditions of his juvenile parole soon after the case was transferred from juvenile court. The sentence was based on 180 days for each of the four people Couch killed while driving drunk as a juvenile – mother and daughter Hollie and Shelby Boyles, youth pastor Brian Jennings and Breanna Mitchell.
Couch’s attorneys asked for his release last month, arguing Salvant’s “criminal district court” is not a “district court,” that its jurisdiction is limited to criminal matters. Salvant asked Evans to rule on the request.
Evans declined to rule on the request from the bench, saying he would rule in the near future.
Several other people were seriously injured when the truck Couch was driving plowed into a crowd that was helping a stranded vehicle in south Fort Worth three years ago.
Public outrage was swift when former state District Judge Jean Boyd sentenced him to only 10 years probation and therapy. A defense psychologist testified at trial that Couch was a product of “affluenza” – that his family felt their wealth bought privilege and that there was no rational link between behavior and consequences. Couch had faced up to 20 years in state prison.
Couch got in trouble again last year when he and his mother Tonya, 48, fled to Mexicoafter a video was posted on Twitter that showed someone who resembles Couch at a beer pong game. Couch was banned from drinking alcohol under the terms of his probation at the time.
The duo was arrested in Puerto Vallarta in December, and Couch’s mother was deported days after her arrest. Couch initially fought deportation to Texas but dropped his case in Mexican court and was deported on Jan. 29.

From Courthouse News.

Attorneys for ‘Affluenza’ Killer Seek His Release

August 31, 2016
By David Lee
FORT WORTH (CN) – Lawyers for jailed “affluenza” killer Ethan Couch moved to free him Tuesday, arguing the adult criminal court that sentenced him has no jurisdiction in his juvenile case.
Tarrant County Judge Wayne Salvant sentenced Couch, 19, to nearly two years in county jail in April for violating the conditions of his juvenile parole. The sentence was based on 180 days for each of the four people he killed while driving drunk as a juvenile.
Couch and his mother Tonya fled to Mexico four months earlier after a video was posted on Twitter showing Couch at a beer pong game.
Salvant rejected a subsequent appeal in May.
Couch stoked outrage in 2013 when former Tarrant County Judge Jean Boyd sentenced him to only 10 years probation and therapy after he drunkenly drove into a crowd of people helping a stranded vehicle on the side of a road in south Fort Worth.
He killed mother and daughter Hollie and Shelby Boyles, youth pastor Brian Jennings and Breanna Mitchell, while seriously injuring several others.
A defense psychologist testified at trial that Couch was a product of “affluenza” – that his family felt their wealth bought privilege and that there was no rational link between behavior and consequences. Couch was facing up to 20 years in state prison.
Couch’s attorneys contend in court papers filed Tuesday that since the case was originally in juvenile court, Savant has no subject-matter jurisdiction.
“This court is a ‘criminal district court,’ not a ‘district court,’ and its jurisdiction is limited to criminal matters,” the 43-page plea to the jurisdiction states. “As with all juvenile matters, this matter is a civil action, not a criminal case.”
Couch’s attorneys say that all of Savant’s orders, judgments and probation conditions “are void – a total nullity – and must be immediately rescinded.”
They say the Texas Legislature has drawn a “clear distinction” between district and criminal district courts in the Texas Family Code.
“The Texas legislature specifically failed to provide for or allow transfer to a ‘criminal district court’ having only civil jurisdiction in the determinate sentencing scenario at issue in this case,” the motion states.
Couch is represented by Wm. Reagan Wynn with Kearney Wynn and Scott Brown, both of Fort Worth.
Couch’s mother is facing one count of hindering apprehension and one count of money laundering.

From Courthouse News.

New Charge Against ‘Affluenza’ Killer’s Mom

May 27, 2016
By David Lee
DALLAS (CN) – A Texas grand jury has filed a new money laundering charge against the mother of “affluenza” killer Ethan Couch, who fled with him to Mexico last year.
Tonya Couch, 48, posted $10,000 bond Thursday for the new charge. She posted $75,000 bond in January after being charged with a third-degree felony count of hindering apprehension. She faces up to 10 years in state prison if convicted.
Couch withdrew $30,000 from her bank account before fleeing with her son and dog to Mexico in a black Ford F-150 truck, according to her arrest warrant.
Her son made headlines in 2013 when former Tarrant County District Judge Jean Boyd sentenced him to 10 years of probation and therapy for driving drunk on stolen and killing four people on the side of a road in south Fort Worth.
Boyd apparently was swayed by defense expert witness testimony that Couch suffered from “affluenza” – that his parents felt wealth bought them privilege and there was no rational link between behavior and consequences.
Ethan Couch made headlines again last year when he fled with his mother to Mexico after a video was posted on Twitter showing someone who resembles Ethan Couch at abeer pong game. He was banned from drinking alcohol under terms of his probation.
Tarrant County authorities launched a manhunt for mother and son after he missed an appointment with his probation officer and the video was made public.
Mexican officials arrested them in Puerto Vallarta in December. Tonya Couch was quickly deported. Ethan was deported in January and was sentenced to two years in county jail when his case was transferred to adult court in April when he turned 19.
Tarrant County District Judge Wayne Salvant gave Ethan Couch the maximum sentence allowed under his parole – 180 days for each of the four people he killed.

From Courthouse News.

Judge Rejects Affluenza Killer’s Appeal of Sentence

May 12, 2016
By David Lee
FORT WORTH (CN) – A Texas judge Wednesday denied “affluenza” killer Ethan Couch’s appeal of a two-year jail sentence for violating terms of his juvenile probation by running away to Mexico.
Tarrant County Judge Wayne Salvant wrote he “did not wish the modify” the maximum sentence he imposed in April when he gave Couch 180 days in jail for each of the four people he killed while driving drunk as a juvenile. Couch’s case was transferred from juvenile court to Salvant’s court — Criminal District Court No. 2 in Tarrant County — when he turned 19 in April.
Couch became famous in 2013 when Tarrant County Judge Jean Boyd sentenced him to 10 years probation and therapy after he drove into a crowd of people helping a stranded vehicle on the side of a road in Fort Worth.
Couch, then 16, was drunk on stolen beer when he killed mother and daughter Hollie and Shelby Boyles, youth pastor Brian Jennings and Breanna Mitchell.
Boyd apparently was persuaded by defense expert testimony that Couch suffered from “affluenza” by being spoiled by his wealthy parents.
Couch and his mother Tonya, 48, fled to Mexico last year after a video was posted on Twitter that appeared to show Couch at a beer pong game. Couch was banned from drinking alcohol under terms of his probation.
Mother and son were arrested in Puerto Vallarta in December. Couch’s mother was deported days after her arrest. She is free on $75,000 bail. She faces a third-degree felony count of hindering apprehension and up to 10 years in state prison if convicted.
Couch initially fought deportation to Texas but dropped his case in Mexican court and was deported on Jan. 29.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving praised Salvant’s ruling, calling it a “small victory” after “years of heartbreak” for the victims’ families.
“But we can never say that we won. No one ever wins in drunk driving crashes,” MADD National President Colleen Sheehey-Church said. “No one can win when someone kills or injuries innocent people.”
Earlier Wednesday, MADD urged the judge to “stand behind” his 720-day jail sentence and reject Couch’s appeal.
“Taking away even one day would be an insult and a slap in the face to the victims and survivors,” Sheehey-Church said in a statement. “To order 720 days and then take it back, you’d take back the small glimpse of peace they received knowing that Couch will spend time behind bars and not on the streets.”

From Courthouse News.