State District Judge Jean Boyd had already decided the Texas teenager would serve no jail time. He was sentenced last year to 10 years’ probation.
His story made national headlines after a witness claimed Couch was a victim of “affluenza” — the product of wealthy, privileged parents who never set limits for the boy.
That particular defense, however, played no part in the judge’s decision, Couch’s lawyer told reporters on Wednesday. Court proceedings were closed to the public.
“She (Boyd) said it (affluenza), and specifically mentioned that that was not a basis for her decision,” said attorney Reagan Wynn. “She heard all the evidence and she made what she thought was the appropriate disposition.”
The judge ordered that Couch’s parents pay for the treatment facility, which was not identified. It was also unclear how long Couch might stay there.
As part of his probation, the teen must refrain from using drugs or alcohol. He will also not be allowed to drive. If Couch violates the terms of his probation, he could face up to 10 years behind bars.
“I think he can be rehabilitated given intensive therapy and I hope that he gets it,” Wynn said about the teen. “The juvenile system is about rehabilitation and if it’s going to be about rehabilitation, she (Boyd) absolutely made the right decision.”
Eric Boyles, who lost his wife and daughter in the crash, disagrees.
He told reporters he has no doubt that money played a role in the case.
“Had he (Couch) not had money to have the defense there, to also have the experts testify, and also offer to pay for the treatment, I think the results would have been different,” he said Wednesday after the proceedings.
Last June, his wife, Hollie Boyles, and daughter, Shelby, left their home to help Breanna Mitchell, whose SUV had broken down. Brian Jennings, a youth pastor, was driving past and also stopped to help.
All four were killed when the teen’s pickup plowed into the pedestrians on a road in Burleson, south of Fort Worth. Couch’s vehicle also struck a parked car, which then slid into another vehicle headed in the opposite direction.
Two people riding in the bed of the teen’s pickup were tossed in the crash and severely injured. One is no longer able to move or talk because of a brain injury, while the other suffered internal injuries and broken bones.
According to prosecutors, three hours after the crash, tests showed Couch had a blood alcohol content of 0.24, three times the legal limit.
“There has been nothing from Ethan from these proceedings with regards to remorse on his part at all — that I do think would have helped. It would have helped the victims. No doubt about it, it would have helped,” said Boyles.
Prosecutors were similarly disappointed with the judge’s decision.
They had asked for the maximum of 20 years behind bars.
“This has been a very frustrating experience for me,” said prosecutor Richard Alpert. “I’m used to a system where the victims have a voice and their needs are strongly considered. The way the system down here is currently handled, the way the law is, almost all the focus is on the offender.”
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