December 18th, 2013
10:15 PM ET

More legal problems for teen drunk driver in "affluenza" case

16-year old drunk driver Ethan Couch killed four people. He was sentenced to probation rather than prison after his lawyer argued he was a victim of "affluenza"; the idea being his wealthy parents had so completely indulged his prior bad behavior, he was incapable of taking responsibility for his actions. In other words, the “spoiled brat”defense. Now, Couch may have to mount a new defense. He is the focus of a new legal effort. Ed Lavandera has the latest.

Anderson discussed all this with former federal prosecutor Sunny Hostin and criminal defense attorney Mark Geragos.

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Filed under: "Affluenza" • Ed Lavandera
soundoff (34 Responses)
  1. Debra

    I think both the kid and the parents should all go to jail for this horrible offense against 4 innocent people. Being a spoiled brat IS NOT a viable defense and should not even be countenanced by the U.S. court system. This judge also needs to be reprimanded for miscarriage of her duty to the citizens in her jurisdiction. If parents fail to teach their children right from wrong then I think they are not doing one of the most important parts of their job as parents. Perhaps this kid should be sent to live with less affluent people who have some decent morals and could attempt to instill some moral fiber into him.

    January 17, 2014 at 7:49 am |
  2. Cynthia Page

    The sad thing about this is that the kid will now be convinced that there are no serious consequences for killing while intoxicated, for vehicular manslaughter, and for rich kids, there are ways around the justice system, as long as your parents can buy the right lawyer. His "affluenza" is now perpetuated into his adulthood by this judge. The sentence does not correct or "treat" his affluenza. It becomes enabling, and reaffirms the impression of a lack of consequences for the affluent that his parents instilled in him. Now he will think he can get away with anything as long as he has enough money to buy so-called justice.

    January 16, 2014 at 2:59 am |
  3. alex brennen

    This is proof that you just have to be white and rich and all of your problems go away.

    January 14, 2014 at 11:45 pm |
    • Debra

      You have hit the nail squarely on the head.

      January 17, 2014 at 7:53 am |
  4. Michael

    One way or another this kid should pay for what he has done. At this point it seems clear the legal system is not going to make that happen.

    January 10, 2014 at 6:28 pm |
  5. Buck Mast

    the biggest criminal in this case is the judge that refused to dispense justice

    January 10, 2014 at 1:36 pm |
  6. PaulC

    Does that mean he will never be responsible?
    A ridiculous defense and an even more ridiculous sentence.

    January 8, 2014 at 7:33 pm |
  7. Royce W. Hou

    This is outrageous! He murdered 4 people and injured 9 and still gets no severe punishment. People who are 16 years old aren't even allowed to drink alcohol. So basically he committed two HUGE crimes and still gets away with saying that he is so rich he doesn't even know the consequences of his actions. He well deserves juvenile, $50,000,000 million fee, and his driver's license taken away forever so he won't hurt anyone else again and get away with saying that his parents are rich. *AHH* Such a spoiled brat.

    January 7, 2014 at 9:45 pm |
  8. Laura Brennan

    It's unfortunate that people know so little about juveniles and the law. This kid was 16, I think and could have been charged as a juvenile. He has been charged as an adult, and now has a criminal record that will stay with him forever. It's rare for people to get jail time on a vehicular homicide, unless they have priors.

    Kids are amenable to treatment and rehab. Give the kid an opportunity to prove himself. Jail is not the answer.

    January 7, 2014 at 2:47 am |
    • SFC Mike

      Killed four, injured two, one with major permanent damage, while at three plus times the legal limit for DUI while 16, after drinking booze he and his buddies stole? Frankly, he should have gotten life and if he "rehabilitated" himself, let him take it up with the parole board in 30 or 40 years.

      January 7, 2014 at 11:26 pm |
    • David B

      You don't know what you're talking about, but don't let that stop you from continuing to opine on matters beyond your scope of knowledge. First time offenders OFTEN get jail time in vehicular manslaughter cases. Posting the first thought that pops into your head, without taking a few minutes to verify the accuracy of what you're about to post, is never a good idea. You invariably end up, as you have here, looking foolish and uninformed.

      January 8, 2014 at 10:39 am |
    • Ben

      KILLED 4 PEOPLE. If it was YOUR 4 relatives, your outlook on the situation would be different. Have some empathy. With actions come consequences, if the courts decided to try him as an adult, they obviously felt that he can stand as an adult. This is not a child, this is an adult in the eyes of the court who has committed murder. No matter how you look at the situation, those are the facts. Rehabilitation will not happen on the streets with money, freedom, and a PlayStation, rehabilitation is available behind bars. I pay for it with my taxes, make use of it.

      January 9, 2014 at 3:22 am |
  9. Rick

    The best cure for "Affluenza", a long jail term.

    January 6, 2014 at 5:33 pm |
    • tim ocallaghan

      iif some feel the kid was improperly raised maybe them that raised him outta do the time

      January 7, 2014 at 7:42 am |
  10. Jones

    This kid deserves jail, the so called rehab us nothing more than a luxury spa.

    January 6, 2014 at 2:23 am |
  11. Mark Pasternak

    Being rich is a a defense for bad behavior but not being poor. Is that because poor people have all the advantages?

    January 2, 2014 at 11:27 pm |
  12. Sally Hodges

    Want to punish a teenager? Revoke his drivers license forever.

    January 2, 2014 at 4:10 am |
  13. Ken

    If I am reading this right it is perfectly OK to murder innocent people, if you have money (Ethan Couch) or the victim is dead and cannot defend himself against a lie (Zimmerman). These judges should be removed for incompetence, maybe they should serve the sentence the criminals they released did not. Recently another incompetent (District Judge G. Todd Baugh) released a man guilty of rape because apparently being the victim means you somehow caused the crime. Where are these morons sitting in judgement coming from? Why not make them write an I.Q. test and set a limit of say minimum of a 40 I.Q. to be a judge; however, District Judge G. Todd Baugh may have still made the cut.

    January 1, 2014 at 11:37 am |
  14. The Rev Dr Sherwood Forrester

    If his lawyers say it was his parents' fault for spoiling him, then his parents need to be charged as accessories to the crime.

    Betcha they sing a different tune about their boy taking responsibility when *they* start looking at doing time.

    December 30, 2013 at 7:16 pm |
    • Bill

      Alternately, it sounds like the victim's families have a very strong civil case against the kid and his parents.

      I keep hearing that prison is best cure for affluenza... But I have a feeling a $10,000,000 judgement against you works pretty well too.

      December 31, 2013 at 5:07 pm |
    • Lynnette

      I fully agree and have been saying this for years. Parents that have minor children need to be responsible for them. If the child kills or robs and is out all night long and unsupervised, I do believe the parents should go to jail along with the minor! Thank you!

      January 1, 2014 at 2:57 pm |
      • Jay

        I agree completely. This is exactly what they do in North Korea.

        January 8, 2014 at 5:35 pm |
  15. Bill

    Why not investigate possible connections of judge (not seeking re-election) to the affluent family involved in this case? The outcome of the trial is so bizarre, one would have to wonder. If corruption can be found, then at least pursue the folks who impeded justice in this case.

    December 28, 2013 at 9:21 am |
  16. Louie Renault

    I would hope that with four (4) victims, a civil court would remove any possibility of an "affluenza" defense from future prosecutions by removing the 'wealth' from the family...

    December 26, 2013 at 9:15 am |
  17. Ronald Thompson

    The Judge in this case should be removed from the bench – Forever !

    December 26, 2013 at 12:53 am |
  18. Dan

    Since he wants to play the "Spoiled Brat" defense, charge the parents with 4 counts of Negligent Homicide. Put the parents on trial too.

    December 25, 2013 at 12:39 pm |
    • Justin

      Dan, that's exactly what I've been saying. The parents should be held responsible instead.

      December 27, 2013 at 12:04 pm |
    • Richard Smith

      I'm in total agreement with this comment as well. The parents abrogated their parental rights by raising a lawless kid. Hold them responsible also.

      January 13, 2014 at 8:39 am |
  19. Edwing perez

    Just whats wrong in america. Injustice, after a couple of week nobody will care... Just wrong send him to jail.

    December 19, 2013 at 8:59 pm |
  20. gregory lewis

    Lock him up

    December 19, 2013 at 3:38 am |
  21. Susan

    I think he should be held accountable. I know money can buy almost anything but NOT 4 LIVES. If he were black, brown or poor white kid, he would be doing time for a very LONG time. It is disgusting that he only got a slap on the hand.

    December 19, 2013 at 12:22 am |
    • Brian


      He could have been a kid with two parents that made $200k a year and he would have served jail time. I knew them all and from all walks (I was not one of these but I was friends with many). Yes, they had a 'different tune' but not for long. Burleson is known for being tough on crime, just not tough on time when their's 'real money' and 'elections' on the table. Sounds like their attorney has been working their politics well and didn't come from Johnson County or Cleburne. Probably some big firm in ritzy Dallas or Plano with enough muscle to force the judge to play 'dog' with the plaintiffs.

      January 1, 2014 at 7:43 pm |
      • Greg

        This is why elected judges are a bad idea.

        January 3, 2014 at 8:05 pm |
        • PaulC

          Yeah, I should appoint them all.

          January 8, 2014 at 7:35 pm |

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