US ‘affluenza’ defendant released from jail

This February 2016 booking photo from the Tarrant County jail in Fort Worth, Texas shows Ethan Couch, who used "affluenza" as a defense for a deadly drunk-driving crash and was released on April 2, 2018, after a two years in jail
AFP

Chicago (AFP) – A young Texan from a wealthy family who used “affluenza” as a defense for a deadly drunk-driving crash was sent home Monday after a two years in jail, US media reported.

Ethan Couch was imprisoned for a 2013 accident in which the then-16-year-old killed four people when he crashed his pickup truck into a group of pedestrians and another vehicle.

Couch, who had a blood-alcohol level nearly three times the legal limit for an adult, pleaded guilty to four counts of intoxication manslaughter. 

The son of millionaire parents made headlines when a psychologist testifying on his behalf claimed that the teen suffered from “affluenza.”

The term, coined from affluence and influenza, implied that financial privilege made the teenager unable to understand the consequences of his actions.

Prosecutors had sought a 20-year prison term, but a juvenile court handed Couch a surprise sentence of mental health treatment and a decade of probation.

The lenient sentence caused outrage among many Americans. 

After Couch missed a mandatory meeting with his probation officer in 2015, he and his mother fled to Mexico. 

They were arrested in the resort of Puerto Vallarta after a manhunt. 

“Two years in jail for four people killed is a grave injustice to the victims and their families who have been dealt life sentences,” the group Mothers Against Drunk Driving said in a statement ahead of Couch’s release. 

Couch’s lawyers told ABC News that his sentence was not over, as he still needs to serve six additional years of probation.

Couch was also to be monitored for alcohol and drug use, and would be unable to drive a vehicle without a monitoring device that checks for alcohol consumption, according to The Dallas Morning News newspaper. 

“From the beginning, Ethan has admitted his conduct, accepted responsibility for his actions, and felt true remorse for the terrible consequences of those actions,” attorneys Scott Brown and Reagan Wynn said in a statement to ABC News. 

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