Not that I know from personal experience, but just based on precedent, if you are born wealthy and white, you are entering this world with a winning lottery ticket. Now, I understand that every individual experiences some level of issues as they navigate life, but still, when the Notorious B.I.G. said “Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems,” he was referring to blood-sucking leeches versus blood alcohol levels three times the legal limit. So, while I don’t know Ethan Couch’s story, I do know his very lenient sentence over a serious crime is some straight bull.
On Tuesday, 16-year-old Couch was sentenced to 10 years probation for the drunk driving crash on June 15 that resulted in the death of four people. Those deaths included, youth pastor Brian Jennings, 41; mother and daughter Hollie, 52 and Shelby Boyles, 21; and 24-year-old Breanna Mitchell. Couch had seven passengers in the Ford F-350 he drove. Of those, four were tossed and two were critically injured — including one who remains paralyzed and only communicates by blinking his eyes.
Couch pleaded guilty to four counts of intoxication manslaughter and two counts of intoxication assault causing serious bodily injury. He was drunk and had Valium in his system prior to the crash. Couch got the liquor by stealing it from Walmart.
It is a disgusting crime rooted in ignorance and an utter disregard for human life — his and all those affected by him.
Couch’s sentence: Tarrant County prosecutors wanted 20 years in prison, but Judge Jean Boyd opted for 10-years probation. Defense attorneys recommended a lengthy probationary term at a rehabilitation facility near Newport Beach, CA. The center can cost more than $450,000 a year, but attorneys said the teen’s parents would pay for the therapy. You can imagine where this story is headed.
Indeed, it appears Judge Boyd was very sympathetic to Couch’s line of defense (via Dallas’ WPAA):
Prior to sentencing, a psychologist called by the defense, Dr. G. Dick Miller, testified that Couch’s life could be salvaged with one to two years’ treatment and no contact with his parents. Investigators said Couch was driving a pickup truck between 68 and 70 miles-per-hour in a 40 mph zone. The four who died were standing on the side of the road outside their vehicle. Nine others were hurt. Miller said Couch’s parents gave him “freedoms no young person should have.”
He called Couch a product of “affluenza,” where his family felt that wealth bought privilege and there was no rational link between behavior and consequences. He said Couch got whatever he wanted.
As an example, Miller said Couch’s parents gave no punishment after police ticketed the then-15-year-old when he was found in a parked pickup with a passed out, undressed, 14-year-old girl. Miller also pointed out that Couch was allowed to drive at age 13. He said the teen was emotionally flat and needed years of therapy.
So a teenage boy went through life without any real discipline and direction in his life, which combined with varying socioeconomic factors, made him susceptible to the sort of high risk behavior that results in criminal activity. His actions, though despicable in nature, are not necessarily an indictment of his character and potential to go on, but another sordid example of how societal ills affect our youth. He can either be given therapy or be sentenced to prison — the latter of which would all but curtail any chance of him going on to become a respectable member of society.
Listen to Judge Hatchett’s take on affluenza below:
Sound familiar? If a 16-year-old black teen of any gender was arrested and slapped with similar charges, what are the chances of a judge offering such a lenient sentence?
Marla Mitchell, Breanna’s mother, told Dallas’ News 8 outside the courtroom that she was “mad” about the sentence. Mitchell explained, “He’ll be feeling the hand of God, definitely. He may think he got away with something, but he hasn’t gotten away with anything.”
Alex Lumas, whose brother was paralyzed in the accident, added, “To me, it’s not right,” he said.
It’s not right, and while what happens to Ethan Couch in the afterlife is up for debate, as it relates to the here and now, the mercy granted upon him over “affluenza” is unsettling. That poor little rich boy.
At its core, empathy is an endearing quality to have; but if it is used unequally, it feels pointless, and in cases like this, infuriating.
Maybe Ethan Couch didn’t deserve a 20-year-sentence. Perhaps he did need professional help to right the wrongs of his bad parenting. Even so, the fact is Ethan was granted mercy because he could afford it. The rest of us aren’t so lucky.
And what might Ethan learn from this exactly? That no matter how bad your action, the consequences might be less harsh so long as you’re well off? I doubt he needed such a lesson.
I suppose the lesson is for the victims: The pain he caused those families is their own burden because he bought out. For their sake, I hope they file civil suits against Ethan’s parents. If he doesn’t have to pay, they sure ought to.