Ethan Couch sentence draws criticism from victims' families - Dallas News |

Ethan Couch sentence draws criticism from victims' families

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The teenager who killed four people while drunk at the wheel will get no additional jail time and be sent to an unknown rehab facility, a judge announced Wednesday in a ruling that's being met with criticism.

Ethan Couch, 16, has previously received 10 years of probation from Judge Jean Boyd for a drunken driving wreck that killed four people in June 2013. The sentence triggered a controversy in North Texas and across the United States.

Boyd decided on a rehabilitation facility for Couch, but the facility was not named publicly and it's not known when Couch will begin rehab.

After the hearing, family members of the victims expressed anger that Couch didn't get any jail time, and said they believed Couch got off easily because his parents were rich.

"Had he 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," said Eric Broyles, whose wife and daughter were killed.

"No amount of money or prestige or status is ever gonna grant them immunity to what they all chose for their life that caused this to our lives," said Marla Mitchell, whose daughter Brianna was killed.

Sergio Molina was critically injured in the crash and suffered permanent brain damage.

His brother, Alexander Lemus, said rehab for Couch is not justice.

Couch's father had offered to pay for him to stay at a $1,200 per day rehab facility in California. Judge Boyd said she would evaluate that center and others closer to home that the probation department suggested.

FOX 4 and five other North Texas media outlets filed a plea in intervention last week to keep hearings about the Couch case open, but the motion was denied.

Only immediate family members along with defense lawyers and prosecutors were allowed inside the courtroom. Members of the media, a spokesperson for the district attorney and civil lawyers of the victims were ordered out of the room ahead of the hearing.

"We believe that elected officials, public officials, what they do, the public needs to hear about," said Assistant Tarrant County District Attorney Richard Alpert, upset about the decision by Judge Jean Boyd to close Wednesday's hearing to the public.

A guard stood in front of the courtroom door, which was locked from the inside.

Couch's attorney, Reagan Wynn, praised the judge's decision.

"She knows more about juvenile law and how to appropriately handle these cases than just about anybody in the state of Texas," said Wynn. "She heard all the evidence and she made what she thought was the appropriate disposition."

But it's that decision that has gotten Judge Boyd national attention and criticism.

An expert called by Couch's attorneys blamed his crime on what they called "affluenza," or the result of a wealthy, discipline-free upbringing.

Prosecutors didn't buy it.

"They thought that would help, that's my interpretation, and it blew up on ‘em," said Alpert. "It was a stupid thing to say. It affected the credibility of that expert and it will follow that expert anywhere he testifies. It was a dumb idea."

Couch will stay at the rehab facility until the center determines he is fully rehabilitated, but there are conditions.

"He's not going to have contact with his family until the treatment facility he's sent to is going to determine it's appropriate," said Alpert. "He can't drive a motor vehicle. He can't have a driver's license. He can't use drugs. He can't run away from the facility. He's not allowed to drive along the area where this wreck occurred, that's a condition."

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