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'Affluenza' teen who claimed his family's wealth was to blame for fatal drink-driving crash jailed

He had fled to Mexico.

Ethan Couch arrives to court.
Ethan Couch arrives to court.
Image: Apexchange

THE TEXAS TEENAGER who used an “affluenza” defence in a fatal drunken-driving wreck must serve nearly two years in jail, a judge ordered today.

Ethan Couch, who turned 19 on Monday, was making his first appearance in adult court.

District Judge Wayne Salvant sentenced Couch to 180 days for each of four counts of intoxication manslaughter.

The terms will be served consecutively. It was not clear if that would include the time Couch has already spent in jail.

A juvenile court judge originally sentenced Couch only to probation, angering the families of his victims and prosecutors who had pushed for detention time.

Further sparking outrage was the contention of a defence psychologist, Dr Dick Miller, that Couch had been coddled into a dangerous sense of irresponsibility by his wealthy parents. Miller used the term “affluenza,” which has stuck with the case ever since.

Couch ended up in trouble again last year after a cellphone video showed him at what appeared to be a party with alcohol. Drinking alcohol is a violation of Couch’s probation. Shortly after the video surfaced, Couch and his mother, Tonya, fled to Mexico.

The two were apprehended in a Mexican resort city in December and sent back to the United States. Couch has been in custody since.

Couch lost control of his family’s pickup truck after he and his friends had played beer pong and drank beer that some of them had stolen from a Wal-Mart. He veered into a crowd of people helping the driver of a disabled vehicle on the side of the road.

Authorities later estimated that he was going 70mph in a 40mph zone.

The crash fatally injured the stranded motorist, a youth minister who stopped to help her and a mother and daughter who came out of their nearby home.

Couch was found to have had a blood-alcohol level three times the legal limit for adult drivers.

It was not Couch’s first run-in with the law. At 15, Couch was given two citations after a police officer found him behind the wheel of a pickup truck next to a half-naked girl, with an open vodka bottle on the backseat floor.

Ethan’s father, Fred, runs a roofing and construction company and has faced lawsuits over a $100,000 debt and allegations of sexual harassment. Tonya Couch has been charged with hindering the apprehension of a felon for helping Ethan flee to Mexico.

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Associated Press

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