Affluence, Toxic Parenting Buy Lenience for Horrific Teen DUI

Posted on December 13, 2013


Texas teen who slaughtered four and injured nine gets probation because he is a victim of toxic parents and “affluenza.”  All right, then.  Lock the parents up and put any other kids they may have into state custody, and most importantly: take away that infectious wealth.

Last Father’s Day, 16-year-old Texas teen Ethan Couch — with a blood alcohol content of well over 0.24, three times the legal limit for an adult — peeled away from a party fuelled by stolen alcohol, and went speeding down a straight, dark rural residential road with seven of his mostly drunk friends piled into his pickup truck.

Just 400 yards later, the truck was already going 70 MPH in a 40 MPH zone, and slammed into a stalled vehicle in a driveway on the side of Burleson-Retta Road.  The four pedestrians working on that vehicle were gruesomely killed, their bodies flung some 60 yards, leaving severed body parts littering the scene.  The truck then collided with a parked vehicle with two young boys in it, sending it – and the children – across the road where it collided with an oncoming vehicle.   The truck then came to rest upside-down, having ejected the two teens riding in the back.  Anyone who wants more detail can watch the police press conference at this link to NBC.

The remains of the truck Couch was driving.  Photo Credit: WFAA

The remains of the truck Couch was driving with seven teenage passengers in it. Photo Credit: WFAA

All told, 16 people were directly involved in this accident.  Four are horribly dead.  Nine more were hospitalized with everything ranging from broken bones and internal injuries to paralysis to severe brain damage.  Two more had lesser injuries.

But Ethan Couch won’t see the inside of a jail for this, no, because he was a victim.  A victim of privilege and toxic parenting, of “affluenza.”  His parents never told him no, never set boundaries.  They taught him to apologize with money, that money could buy his way out of trouble.  There were never any consequences for destructive or harmful behavior, not even when he was twice cited for alcohol infractions, nor when he was found in a car with a drunk, passed-out, naked 14-year-old girl.  So the defense argues that of course he isn’t to blame now, either.  His parents are to blame, his wealth is to blame.  Perversely… he should once again get a pass.  And the judge bought it.  The families are stunned and outraged.

Says defense attorney Scott Brown, “There is nothing the judge could have done to lessen the suffering for any of those families.”  I reject that as an argument for leniency. The purpose of punishment is not to bring back the dead or heal the maimed; it is about retribution, about justice, about deterrence, about getting dangerous people removed from society.  We punish those who kill and maim so they don’t kill and maim even more people, and so that others who might make the same “mistakes” think twice about what will happen to themselves in such a situation.  I would argue that an entitled, arrogant, careless, drunken teen like Couch is far more dangerous to society at large than any mugger or wanton murderer.  He can strike anyone, anywhere, anytime.  He will slaughter you in your own driveway and leave your shredded, dismembered body for your loved ones to find.

But wait, says the defense:  Ethan remains in juvenile custody pending the start of his counseling treatment in California, far from his family and friends.  He will not be allowed contact with his toxic parents.  In essence – the state, and the counseling center, are now his parents, and I’m guessing they won’t be giving him much of an allowance.  It is just possible that for Ethan, this could be just as bad as being in jail, and it might even teach him something useful to boot.  The lack of jail time is distasteful, but maybe the judge wasn’t such a pushover after all.  One other purpose of punishment is, after all, rehabilitation.  Alas, the rehab center in question is a rather posh affair in Southern California.

But even that might serve another purpose:  if toxic wealth is the root of the problem, well… take it away!  If I could,   I would bar Ethan from receiving one more penny from his family, EVER, directly or indirectly, in their lifetimes or as an inheritance (it would be nice to lock his parents up if they are the criminals, but there seems not to be a particular charge for this).

Luckily, there may just be a way to accomplish the therapeutic impoverishment of the poisonously wealthy Couch family.  As it happens, his father, Fred Couch, will have to foot the $450,000 per year treatment bill for his son for the next year or two.  Additionally, victims’ families have at least five lawsuits pending against the parents, representing millions of dollars in damages sought.  Fred Couch’s company is also being sued, because it owned the truck involved in the accident.  The court’s very defense of Ethan Couch, in blaming the parents for their son’s mayhem, has nicely set up a solid basis for these suits.

Now this, all in combination, may be justice after all:  if wealth was the cause of young Ethan’s “symptoms,” if his parents were to blame for fostering this “affluenza” that was at the root of all of this destruction (including the destruction of their son, who is currently a complete waste of human flesh) – well, in the interest of society and to secure the boy’s own future as an actual human being, maybe we should remove all of that offending wealth.  Remove it, and hand it to the people he has killed and injured, who face mounting bills.  His brain-damaged friend alone – who can communicate only by blinking – faces perhaps tens of millions in future medical costs.

If ever there was a just and proper application for a lawsuit, this case is it.  If justice isn’t jail time, then let justice take the form of transferring all of that troublesome wealth away from the Couch family and distributing it as far as it will go to their victims.