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'Affluenza Teen' Sentenced to Two Years in Jail for Violating Probation

"You're not getting out of jail today," a Texas judge told Ethan Couch, giving him consecutive terms for breaking a probation deal that kept him out of prison after he killed four people while driving drunk in 2013.

by VICE News and Reuters
Apr 13 2016, 6:20pm

Foto di Max Faulkner/AP

A Texas county judge sentenced 19-year-old Ethan Couch, known widely as the "affluenza teen," to serve four consecutive 180-day terms in jail for violating a juvenile probation deal that kept him out of prison after he killed four people while driving drunk in 2013.

Couch, who was 16 at the time of the crash, was speeding and had a blood-alcohol level of nearly three times the legal limit when he lost control of his pickup truck and fatally struck a stranded motorist on the side of the road and three people who had stopped to help.

A psychologist for the defense testified in juvenile court that financial privilege impaired his ability to distinguish between right and wrong, describing the affliction as "affluenza," a term that quickly became a media buzzword.

Though the diagnosis, which is not recognized by the American Psychiatric Association, was widely ridiculed, Couch was sentenced to 10 years of alcohol and drug-free probation, which critics saw as leniency due to his family's wealth. His subsequent escape to Mexico with his mother rekindled anger over his original sentence.

Related: Lawyers for 'Affluenza Teen' Suggest He May Have Been Forced to Flee to Mexico

Following his capture in Mexico and subsequent deportation in January, Ethan Couch has been held in Tarrant County jail — and that's where he'll remain for the foreseeable future.

"You're not getting out of jail today," Judge Wayne Salvant told Couch has he handed down the sentence, which is just 10 days shy of two years. It was Couch's first appearance in adult court, and he was attired in a red Tarrant County jail jumpsuit.

Couch went missing last year shortly after a video emerged on social media that appeared to show him at an alcohol-fueled party, which would have violated the probation deal that kept him out of prison.

He and his mother, Tonya Couch, were nabbed in the Mexican resort town of Puerto Vallarta after they used a cellphone to order a Domino's pizza. While in Puerto Vallarta, Couch was reportedly forced to call his mother to bail him out after he came up $345 short on a $1,000 tab at a local strip joint. He reportedly used his Rolex watch as collateral for the bill and was "extremely drunk," according to ABC News, which spoke to employees at the club.

Taxpayers paid more than $150,000 of the $200,000 bill for the year-long rehabilitation imposed on Couch as part of his sentence because his parents could not afford to pay for all of the treatment, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported, citing court documents.

Judge Salvant is also presiding over a separate case concerning Tonya Couch, who is charged with helping her son flee to Mexico.

She was released on bail but is under home confinement awaiting trial. If convicted, she faces up to 10 years in prison.