Remember Ethan Couch? Sure you do … he is the Texas teen who, while driving drunk in 2013, crashed into a group of people trying to help a stranded motorist, killing four and injuring nine, two severely. He was sentenced to ten years’ probation in juvenile court after his lawyer argued that it was not his fault, but the fault of his parents because he had been so privileged that he was incapable of discerning right from wrong or understanding the consequences of his actions. Prosecutors and families of the victims were enraged that Couch did not serve jail time for his crimes. Then last year, a video was posted of Couch playing drinking games at a party, a direct violation of the terms of his parole. However, when his probation officer attempted to contact him, Couch and his mother, Tonya Couch, had fled to Mexico. We, the taxpayers of the U.S., then financed a manhunt by the FBI, Federal Marshall’s Service and other agencies. Once found, Couch launched a legal battle to attempt to deny or delay extradition back to the U.S., but eventually in February of this year, he was brought back to the U.S. (Below are links to the two previous posts I wrote about this case):
Long story short, yesterday, 13 April 2016, the court sentenced Couch to serve four consecutive terms of 180 days each in prison (one term for each of the 2013 car crash victims) equaling two years in prison. After that, he will remain on probation until 2024. The 720-day prison sentence is tentative, as the defense attorneys now have two weeks to mount a viable argument to the judge. The defense attorney stated that the four deaths caused by Couch should be counted only as one. Can you imagine being the parent, spouse or child of any of those victims and hearing that? I cannot. Four separate lives = four separate counts of murder, in my book. Perhaps it is a good thing I did not become a lawyer, yes?
Okay, so those are the facts. Now the Filosofa’s commentary portion. First, I have to ask “why only two years?” Initially, he could have faced a sentence of up to ten years, but instead, the judge gave him only 20% of the maximum. Never mind that he is already, at 19 years of age, an alcoholic. Never mind that he not only violated his probation by drinking alcohol but then fled the country, seeking asylum in Mexico (where, by the way, another bout of drinking was what led to his capture). Never mind that he has never been charged with violating parole, nor with theft for the alcohol that he stole shortly before the 2013 crash. And, here is my biggest issue with such a lenient sentence, he has shown no remorse. None. He has obviously not learned that drinking excessive amounts of alcohol leads to bad judgement. He has apparently never expressed any remorse for the four lives lost, the nine injured, one of whom is paralyzed for life, nor the countless loved ones of those victims whose lives will never be the same again. No, this young man has learned not a single life-lesson. The accident occurred in June 2013, nearly three years ago. Sergio Molina, who is paralyzed for life as a result of the accident, has already served a longer, more painful sentence than Ethan Couch will ever serve for his crimes. And he cannot even be bothered to be sorry.
What about Tonya Couch, Ethan’s mother? She was charged with aiding and abetting and was initially given a $1 million bond, but that was later reduced to $75,000, and she is now home, wearing an ankle bracelet, awaiting a hearing.
What message does this whole sordid mess send to wealthy parents and their children? It does not send the message to parents that they are not doing their children any favours by indulging and over-protecting them from the consequences of their actions. It does send, I believe, the message to teens who happen to have been fortunate enough to be born into well-to-do families that they can do just about anything and not pay a heavy price. It sends the message that if they screw up, it is probably the fault of someone else, possibly their parents for not teaching them the difference between right and wrong. Additionally, it sets a legal precedent for future, similar cases. Couch is technically no longer a teen. He is old enough to understand that what he did was wrong, but he does not appear to understand this at all. If it seems that I am not empathetic, you would be right. I am not empathetic toward Ethan Couch, nor his mother, nor the rest of his family. They have no idea what suffering is.
Suffering is being told that your wife and daughter were just killed by a drunk, underage driver. Suffering is spending the rest of your life in a wheelchair because somebody else was criminally negligent. So no, I have no concern, no compassion for Ethan Couch and I will refrain from saying here what I hope will happen to him during the next 720 days.
Contrary to what Couch’s attorneys may say, affluenza is not a disease. It is parental negligence. It is, what we in the less well-to-do culture call spoiled-brat. Were the parents responsible? To a degree, certainly. However, this kid was 16 at the time of the murders. He had been in school for some 11 years. He had been exposed to the influences of teachers, peers, advisors, coaches, and society at large. He was, in fact, old enough to know better, should have known better, and still, three years later, cannot say a simple “I am so sorry.” So no, this spoiled brat deserves no empathy from any of us, neither do his parents.