The Texas man Ethan Couch who avoided a lengthy prison sentence after psychologists claimed he suffered from “affluenza” has been released from jail.
Ethan Couch left prison on Monday after serving slightly less than two years for a revoked probation. The release reignited a national debate that began at Couch’s sentencing, when he avoided a possible 20-year prison term based in part on a psychologist’s argument that his family’s wealth had altered his judgement.
In 2013, at the age of 16, Ethan Couch hit and killed four pedestrians in a drunk driving crash. Two of the passengers in his pickup truck were injured; one was paralysed.
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‘Affluenza’ teen sentenced to two years in Texas jail
Prosecutors at the time argued he should serve the maximum of 20 years in prison for four counts of intoxication manslaughter and two counts of intoxication assault. Defence attorneys pushed for rehabilitation instead.
A psychologist called by the defence suggested Couch suffered from “affluenza,” or a lack of personal responsibility spurred by his affluent upbringing.
“He never learned that sometimes you don’t get your way,” psychologist Gary Miller said at the trial. “He had the cars and he had the money. He had freedoms that no young man would be able to handle.”
A juvenile court judge sentenced Ethan Couch to 10 years probation – a punishment activist groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) dismissed as overly lenient. But he was sent to prison less than three years later, after violating his probation by attending a party where alcohol was served.
Couch’s mother, Tonya Couch, allegedly helped him flee to Mexico after the parole violation, in an attempt to avoid prison. The two were later found and sent back to the US. Ms Couch has been charged with with money laundering and hindering apprehension of a felon.
Couch will remain on probation after his release, wearing an ankle monitor, using an alcohol detecting patch, and abiding by a 9 pm curfew, according to Mike Simonds of the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office. He will also have a video interlock ignition device installed in his car.