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US ‘affluenza teen’ sentenced to two years in prison

Ethan Couch, 19, was ordered to serve four consecutive sentences of 180 days in prison, or a total of 720 days
AFP

Washington (AFP) – A US judge on Wednesday sentenced a teenager who used “affluenza” as a defense in a deadly Texas drunk-driving accident — and then fled to Mexico to evade his probation officer — to two years in prison.

Ethan Couch, 19, was ordered to serve four consecutive sentences of 180 days in prison, or a total of 720 days — one for each person killed in the 2013 accident in Texas.

Judge Wayne Salvant, whose verdict was televised, said he could revise the sentence in two weeks after prosecutors and defense attorneys submit written arguments.

In 2013, Couch — who was 16 at the time — crashed his pickup into a group of pedestrians and another vehicle. Beyond the dead, several others were seriously injured.

He had a blood-alcohol level nearly three times the legal limit for an adult.

The son of millionaire parents made headlines during his trial when a psychologist testifying on his behalf claimed he suffered from “affluenza.”

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

Couch pleaded guilty to intoxication manslaughter. Prosecutors at the time had sought a 20-year prison term, but the court handed him a surprise sentence of mental health treatment and a decade of probation.

The leniency caused outrage among many Americans.

After he missed a mandatory meeting with his probation officer last year, Couch and his mother fled to Mexico, where they were arrested in the resort of Puerto Vallarta in December. Couch was sent home in January and has been detained since.

It was not clear if the 720-day sentence would include time served.

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