FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – Ethan Couch, the now 20-year-old who gained national notoriety when lawyers used an “affluenza” defense in his Intoxication Manslaughter trial, is now out of jail and free on probation.
Couch was sentenced to 720 days behind bars for violating probation. This morning Couch was taken from jail to the Tarrant County Community Supervision and Corrections Department for processing – per the conditions of his probation for causing a crash that killed four people in 2013. Then, just after 11:30 a.m., he exited the probation office with his attorney, got in a waiting car and was driven away. The vehicle made no stops after leaving the court buildings and went to a home in northwest Fort Worth owned by Ethan’s father, Fred Couch.
Ethan did not speak as he walked from the probation office to the car, but his attorneys, Scott Brown and Reagan Wynn, issued a statement that said —
“We anticipate Ethan will be released from the Tarrant County jail, today, after 27 months of continuous imprisonment. He will now serve the remaining six years of his period of community supervision under the terms and conditions imposed by the Court. From the beginning, Ethan has admitted his conduct, accepted responsibility for his actions, and felt true remorse for the terrible consequences of those actions. Now, nearly five years after this horrific event, Ethan does not wish to draw attention to himself and requests privacy so he may focus on successfully completing his community supervision and going forward as a law-abiding citizen.”
While Couch has been released from jail he isn’t exactly be free. As he completes his probation sentence he’s been fitted with GPS and alcohol monitors, and must adhere to a curfew requiring him to be at home between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. everyday. And should he get a driver’s license, Couch will be required to have an ignition interlock device attached to any vehicle he drives.
Couch was 16-years-old when he caused a crash in Burleson that killed four people and left a fifth paralyzed. He was tried as a juvenile and convicted of Intoxication Manslaughter, but was only sentenced to rehabilitation and 10 years probation. The “affluenza” term came during the trial — it was a condition lawyers said Couch had because he was raised by wealthy parents and was never taught right from wrong.
Couch was two years into his probation term when video surfaced on social media showing him at a party playing beer pong — consuming alcohol was a violation of his probation.
Sometime between when the video was posted and a warrant issued for his arrest Couch and his mother, Tonya, fled to Mexico. The pair was caught near Puerto Vallarta days after Christmas 2015 and Couch was eventually extradited back to North Texas on January 28.
Critics say the justice system has been too lenient with Couch. “We’ll continue to watch him,” said MADD National President Colleen Sheehey-Church. “We have a partnership with Tarrant County to make sure that he at least adheres to all his rules of probation.”
If Couch were to violate probation, now that he has been in the adult system, he could face up to 10 years in prison each of the four people he killed.
Just as Ethan gained some of his freedom, his mother remains jailed. A judge revoked the bond of 50-year-old Tonya Couch last week after she failed a drug test. As punishment for fleeing with her son to Mexico, Tonya Couch is facing Money Laundering and Hindering the Apprehension of a Felon charges.