The Texas Supreme Court struck down a request from “affluenza” teen Ethan Couch to get out of jail early. He will serve out the rest of his 720 day sentence.
On Thursday, the state’s highest court denied the petition for a writ of mandamus filed by Couch’s attorneys in March. Breitbart Texas reported the legal team of Reagan Wynn and Scott Brown argued the presiding magistrate on the case, District Judge Wayne Salvant, had no authority to sentence Couch because he is a criminal court judge and Couch’s case should have been handled as a civil court matter. Last October, administrative Judge David Evans also denied Couch’s motion to remove Salvant from the case. Had Couch’s legal action been successful, it could have resulted in the ‘affluenza’ teen’s release from jail.
Breitbart Texas reported Couch’s lawyers repeatedly tried to get their client out of jail in 2016, filing similar petitions that questioned the legality of Couch’s incarceration at the Tarrant County Jail. One argued for Couch’s release, asserting the teen’s case was sent to Salvant but should have gone to a civil judge when their client turned of legal age in April 2016. Throughout, Wynn and Brown maintained Salvant wrongfully jailed Couch.
Couch, who turned 20-years-0ld last week, served the first year of the roughly two year sentence, which Salvant tacked onto Couch’s existing juvenile probation sentence for killing four people in a 2013 drunken driving wreck. At the time of the crash, Couch was 16-years-old. Besides those fatalities, others were seriously injured. Couch’s blood alcohol level was three times the legal limit for an adult and traces of Valium were found in his system.
Wynn and Brown defended then minor Couch in the subsequent high-profile trial where they claimed the teen was the victim of “affluenza,” an inability to distinguish right from wrong, the result of a coddled, affluent upbringing. A lenient juvenile judge doled out a 10-year probation sentence plus rehab and counseling instead of the 20 years of prison time the prosecution sought for Couch’s punishment.
In late 2015, an 18-year-old Couch and his mother Tonya disappeared after a party video surfaced purportedly showing someone who looked like the teen at a party where guests played beer pong, a probation violation. Their disappearance sparked an international manhunt although authorities quickly found and detained them in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, ultimately deporting mother and son back to Texas. The teen’s case transferred automatically from the juvenile to the adult court system on his 19th birthday.
Salvant also presides over Couch’s mother’s case. She awaits trial on third-degree felony charges of money laundering and hindering the apprehension of a minor, her son.
Breitbart Texas obtained a statement Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) National President Colleen Sheehey-Church issued to supporters following the state’s high court’s decision to keep Couch behind bars through the duration of his jail sentence. She said this “isn’t a celebration” and noted “the court refused to compound the injustice committed against the friends and families of those killed and those who lives are forever changed.”
Last year, MADD fought vigorously to keep Couch incarcerated. Breitbart Texas reported the anti-drunk driving advocacy group created the online petition #FightAffluenza. As Couch’s attorneys filed motions to get the teen out of jail, MADD launched a #STILLACRIMINAL campaign. In March, when Couch’s attorneys petitioned the Texas Supreme Court, MADD posted: “Ethan Couch is a criminal and this meritless motion can’t change that.”
Follow Merrill Hope, a member of the original Breitbart Texas team, on Twitter.