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Texas Teen With 'Affluenza' Avoids Jail Again

by: Ben Sherman

Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 02:30 PM CST

Ethan Couch

This week, Fort Worth Judge Jean Boyd again kept 17-year-old Burleson teen Ethan Couch from serving jail time for killing four people and severely injuring two while driving drunk late last year. On Wednesday, Judge Boyd sentenced Couch to a rehab facility that costs $450,000, to be paid for by his (affluenza-inducing) parents. In December, Judge Boyd sided with the defense, which argued in part that Couch had "affluenza" and could not see human morality past his parents' gobs of cash, and kept him out of jail.

"Couch was 16 at the time of the accident. His blood-alcohol level was three times the legal limit for an adult and there were traces of Valium in his system when he lost control of his pickup truck and plowed into a group of people helping a woman whose car had stalled," the New York Post explains.

The charges against Burleson's Couch were brought by the families of the two survivors. One of them, Sergio Molina, is completely paralyzed except for his eyes, and communicates by blinking.

More below the jump.

Prosecutor Richard Alpert hopes the specter of such a horrible crime meeting such lenient punishment will encourage the Texas Legislature to give juries the right to sentence some juvenile defendants.

Sergio Molina's brother said something devastating when the story broke: "That kid killed four people and crippled my little brother and doesn't even have to serve one year?  If he were poor like us, he would've gotten 10 years, I bet."

At the time of the Couch ruling, I wrote:

Maybe one of the reasons the Ethan Couch case is so appalling is not that it's not entirely surprising. We live in a country that refuses to treat its citizens as equals, and it starts with politics itself. More money means more influence right now, and it's one of the least American traits we could have. From Burleson to Bakersfield to Buffalo, the rich escape prosecutions for their crimes far more frequently than those without large bank accounts. We treat massive corporations in the agricultural and energy industries as precious entities deserving of tax breaks and subsidies while they tear down this country's future. Our tax policy and school funding system locks the American playing field into a tilt on which most Americans having to climb uphill.

Once more, Couch's circumstances save him from jail. What if his parents couldn't afford the $450,000 rehab? Which teenagers are capable of rehab? If it's only white, upper-class teenagers, something is amiss in our state and country. If it's jail for the poor and fancy rehabilitation for the rich, America is no longer America.

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