Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Judge Moves 'Affluenza' Teen's Case to Adult Court

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Judge Moves 'Affluenza' Teen's Case to Adult Court

Article excerpt

FORT WORTH, Texas - A judge on Friday sent the Texas teenager who used an "affluenza" defense in a fatal drunken-driving wreck to adult court, raising the possibility that he could get jail time for the 2013 crash that killed four people. Ethan Couch was 16 at the time of the crash. During his juvenile trial, a defense expert invoked the term "affluenza while arguing that Couch's wealthy parents had coddled him into a sense of irresponsibility.

Friday's ruling means the now 18-year-old Couch could face up to 120 days in jail, then finish his 10-year probation. But if he violates his probation during that time, he could get up to 10 years in prison for each of the four people who were killed.

Among those attending the hearing was Sergio Molina, who was riding in the back of Couch's pickup and left paralyzed. He can only communicate by blinking his eyes.

Molina attended with his mother and brother, Alexander Lemus, who said that what he wanted from the Couches was "that they pay.

"What's 120 days in county? Lemus asked. "That's nothing. We need help. They have so much money, they need to pay.

The judge ordered that the case be transferred before Couch turns 19 in April. He remains in the county's maximum-security jail and in solitary confinement for 23 hours per day.

"I wish I could say I've seen some sense of remorse. I won't say that, Tarrant County Sheriff Dee Anderson said. "I do believe, from seeing him and talking to him, that it's become more real to him.

Couch's attorney, Scott Brown, did not fight the transfer. Although he has not explained the strategy, the punishment could have been greater if the judge had kept the case in the juvenile system.

Staying in juvenile court could have set off a series of hearings to determine if Couch violated his existing probation, which potentially could have led to 10 years in adult prison when Couch ages out of the juvenile system at 19. …

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