I am sure that most people have heard of the Texas ‘Affluenza’ case in which a spoiled brat from a wealthy family was given probation instead of prison after pleading guilty to killing four people while driving drunk. Here is a brief summary:
On June 15, 2013, 16-year-old Ethan Couch and some friends stole two cases of beer from a Walmart in the Ft. Worth area. They proceeded to get rip-roaring drunk. With seven teen passengers in his speeding pickup truck, Couch ran down and killed four pedestrians on a dark road in Burleson, Texas. Two teens in the bed of the pickup were severely injured as well. Couch’s blood alcohol level was .24, three times the legal limit. Valium was also found in his system.
Couch pled guilty to four counts of intoxication manslaughter and two counts of assault by intoxication causing bodily injury (to the two teenagers in the bed of the truck). Texas sentencing guidelines call for a 2-20-year prison term and a fine of up to $10,000. The judge, however, did not give him any jail time and opted instead for 10 years of probation. Couch’s father then wanted to cough up $450,000 to put him in a California treatment facility.
District Judge Jean Boyd was influenced by the Affluenza diagnosis of psychologist Gary Miller. According to Miller, that affliction is the result of Couch’s wealthy parents letting him get away with anything. Miller testified that Couch ”never learned that sometimes you don’t get your way. He had the cars and he had the money. He had freedoms that no young man would be able to handle.”
Now it really breaks me up that young Ethan could not cope with the luxurious lifestyle that was so cruelly thrust upon him. I’m sure that poverty-stricken Americans are overjoyed that they do not have to suffer the unbearable burdens that come with wealth.
If you believe an injustice has been done in this case, get ready for another one. Couch’s family had offered to pay $450,000 to have their ‘Affluenza’ afflicted son treated at a classy rehab center near Newport Beach, California, but the judge rejected the offer, opting instead for North Texas State Hospital near the rural town of Vernon.
The cost for treating a patient at that state hospital comes to about $21,500 a month, but according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Couch’s parents will be charged only $1,170 a month. That leaves Texas taxpayers stuck with over $20,000 for every month that spoiled Affluenza afflicted creep keeps getting treated with kid gloves at a hospital when his sorry ass should have been sent to prison instead.
The Affluenza defense is even more ridiculous than the Twinkie Defense used by Dan White’s attorneys in his 1979 trial for the murders of San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk.
What it all boils down to is that justice is for sale. We have justice for the wealthy and justice for the poor, and there is a lot of injustice in that when the wealthy can buy their way out of a prison sentence while the poor cannot. A letter published in Tuesday’s Houston Chronicle said:
Regarding “Woman gets 50-year sentence for DUI deaths” (Page B2, Saturday), the story of the McAllen woman who pleaded guilty to killing five people while driving drunk is an illustration of how appallingly unfair the criminal justice system can be in Texas. My beef isn’t with the harsh sentence imposed on Margaret Gil, but with the fact that on the same page in the Chronicle, there is an update about the Fort Worth-area “Affluenza Teen,” who killed four people and turned a fifth person into a quadriplegic, also while driving drunk (‘Affluenza’ teen gets lowered rehab fee).
Affluenza Teen avoided jail time in part by offering as a defense the hardships of growing up as the son of a multi-millionaire. That money and influence ended up buying him 10 year’s probation and a rehab stint. By contrast, Gil got the book thrown at her and will likely serve at least 25 years in prison. She pleaded guilty to homicide and apologized at her trial, two things that Affluenza Teen never did.
Money buys justice in Texas.
Pete Smith, Cypress
Well said Mr. Smith. I just want to add that money buys justice all over the U.S., not just in Texas. And a slight correction – The “Affluenza Teen” did plead guilty to four counts of intoxication manslaughter.