The Affluenza Brat … er … “Teen” Is Back In The News

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):

The New 1% Disease

The Saga Continues – Affluenza Part II

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.

couch

Ethan Couch

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.

couch victim

Sergio Molina

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.

The Saga Continues: Affluenza, Part II

Lately it seems that all I ever write about is gun regulation, Donald Trump, or the presidential race in general.  I am tired of these topics, but they just won’t go away … every day there is something else that my conscience won’t let me leave alone.  But today, I thought, is the day that I am going to take a break, write about something light and fun!  But alas … maybe tomorrow, because just as I was trying to think of what might be fun for me to write and my readers to read, this crossed my desk:

“Tonya Couch, the mother of so-called “affluenza” teen Ethan Couch, had her bond lowered from $1 million to $75,000 at a hearing on Monday.”  http://www.cnn.com/2016/01/11/us/texas-affluenza-tonya-couch/index.html?sr=fbCNN011216texas-affluenza-tonya-couch0351AMVODtopLink&linkId=20283485

You may remember my post of 16 December 2015 titled “The New 1% Disease” about “affluenza”.  https://jilldennison.com/2015/12/16/the-new-1-disease/  The post was inspired by the story of this woman’s son who, after driving drunk and killing four innocent people, was given only a proverbial slap-on-the-wrist because it was ruled that as a result of being born into a wealthy family, he was not able to understand the concept of responsibility, and thus could not be held accountable for his actions.  Then, just two years into his ten-year probation sentence, he disappeared.  Poof.  Vanished, as did his mother.  Just over two weeks later, Couch and his mother were found in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.  The mother was promptly returned to the U.S. and was being held on $1 million bail.  Given the family wealth, one would not expect a mere $1 million to be a huge drain on the family coffers, but apparently it was, so during her bond hearing yesterday the bail was lowered to a modest $75,000.  She is charged with hindering the apprehension of her son, who fled to Mexico after a video surfaced showing him drinking alcohol, a blatant violation of his probation.  She will likely end up paying only 10% of the bond, or $7,500.  Her older son claims that she is broke … a story I find difficult to believe, especially in light of the fact that she withdrew $30,000 from her bank account to fund the trip to Mexico. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have $30,000 readily accessible!  Generally a higher bond is intended to keep a person in jail if that person is believed to be a “flight risk”.  Apparently the Texas judge who lowered Ms. Couch’s bail does not believe that she is at risk of disappearing before trial, despite the fact that she already did exactly that back in December.

 

Meanwhile, back in Mexico, young Ethan, now 18 years of age, languishes in a Mexican migrant holding facility pending extradition.  Why has he not already been extradited to the U.S.?  Because his attorney argues that extraditing him, or “kicking him out of Mexico” would violate his rights, since he hasn’t committed any crime in Mexico.  As a result, Couch’s return to the U.S. will take a minimum of two weeks and could take as long as several months.  The matter now apparently rests in the hands of the Mexican immigration court.  His attorney has announced that he will appeal any unfavorable decision, in which case the process could be lengthy, if not interminable.  Meanwhile, what about the rights of Kevin McConnell whose 12-year-old son, Lucas was one of nine people injured by Mr. Couch?  Or what about the rights of Eric Boyles, whose wife and daughter were both killed by Mr. Couch?  Who has the greater right here, the criminal or the victim?

 

Now, I don’t understand the concept that he should not be deported from Mexico because he “hasn’t committed any crime in Mexico”.  Let us think about this for just a minute.  First, the U.S. does, in fact, have an extradition treaty with Mexico that was signed on 13 November 1997 and entered into force on 21 May 2001. Surely, I thought, this means that Mexico is obligated to return this young man to the U.S. to stand trial.  But then, as I was researching the topic (yes, I do actually research before I make a statement), I discovered that most extradition treaties actually have a requirement of “dual-criminality” … in other words, the person must be found to have committed a crime in both countries!  Upon learning of this, my first thought was “how utterly ridiculous!”  But then, I tried thinking of it in some hypothetical cases completely apart from the Couch case, and I realized that simple extradition based solely on the request of one country could certainly lead to crimes against humanity and human rights abuses.

 

So, I have another idea.  Consider the following.  After the end of WWII, Adolph Eichmann, one of the most notorious Nazi SS officers and one of the major organizers of the Holocaust, fled to Argentina using a false passport under the name of Ricardo Klement.  Many, including famed Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal, dedicated themselves to finding Eichmann, as well as other former Nazis.  Long story short, eventually they discovered that he was living comfortably with his family in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  Argentina had a long history of denying extradition requests for Nazis, so in 1960, Mossad, Israel’s famed intelligence agency, simply kidnapped Eichmann and smuggled him out of the country, to later be tried and executed.  Okay, there is a bit of a difference between Eichmann and Couch, and I’m not suggesting execution for this stupid and misguided young man, but I am suggesting that if Mexico refuses to extradite within a reasonable amount of time, say ten days or two weeks, CIA agents be dispatched to kidnap him and bring him to the U.S. to face the music.

 

And some music it will be, as MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) are circulating a petition demanding that Couch’s case be moved to adult court.  I am not sure what the protocols and precedents for such an action are, and that is research best left to the experts.  But what I do know is that MADD has historically had significant influence and has been successful in the enactment of more than 1,000 new laws since their founding in 1980.

 

The wheels of justice sometimes turn slowly, but turn they do.  I strongly suspect that Tonya Couch will ultimately plead that she is not responsible for her actions due to some mental illness and be let off with a minimum sentence, possibly only probation, although by law she could receive up to a ten-year prison sentence.  And I think that eventually Ethan Couch will be returned to the U.S.  I cannot predict whether he will be transferred to adult court, but I certainly hope he is.  I think it will be years before this matter is fully resolved and that even then most of us will believe it wasn’t enough.  I only hope that there will never again be a case where a person is not brought to justice based solely on the fact of being too wealthy to understand social and moral responsibility.