TARRANT COUNTY, Texas (CBS News) — A 20-year-old Texas man who as a teenager invoked “affluenza” in his defense after killing four people in a drunken wreck has been released from jail. Tarrant County sheriff’s spokesman David McClelland says Ethan Couch was released Monday from the county jail near Dallas after serving nearly two years for a revoked probation.
Couch was 16 in June 2013 when he struck and killed four pedestrians. A psychologist at his manslaughter trial blamed his irresponsibility on family wealth, dubbing it “affluenza.” The term was widely ridiculed.
Couch was captured on camera walking out of a probation office Monday, but didn’t speak to reporters. His attorneys, Scott Brown and Reagan Wynn, issued a statement that said he would begin a six-year term of community supervision under court-ordered terms.
“From the beginning, Ethan has admitted his conduct, accepted responsibility for his actions, and felt true remorse for the terrible consequences of those actions,” the statement said. “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.”
Couch at first skirted jail when a juvenile court in 2014 sentenced him to 10 years of probation, sparking public outrage. A judge instead ordered him to attend Newport Academy — later dubbed “Afluenza Anonymous” in a feature for Bloomberg Businessweek — an upscale California rehabilitation facility to be paid for by his parents.
Couch and his mother Tonya Couch, 50, fled to Mexico in 2015 as prosecutors weighed whether to revoke the probation after video surfaced that appeared to show Ethan Couch at a party where people were drinking. Consuming alcohol was a violation of the probation terms.
Mother and son were later captured in Mexico and sent back to the U.S., and a judge in 2016 revoked Ethan Couch’s probation. He’s been jailed since then.
Ethan Couch after his jail release April 2, 2018 (Photo credit: CBS DFW)
His mother, Tonya Couch, awaits trial on charges of hindering apprehension of a felon and money laundering after she fled to Mexico with her son. Last week, her bond in the case was revoked after she failed a required urine test, but court documents don’t specify the substance the urinalysis revealed.
State District Judge Wayne Salvant had warned Tonya Couch last June to “use common sense” pending her trial. She was booked into Tarrant County jail Wednesday.
The president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving on Monday called Ethan Couch’s release a “grave injustice.”
“We’ll continue to watch him because we have a partnership with Tarrant County to make sure that he at least adheres to all his rules of probation when he does get out on Monday,” said Colleen Sheehey-Church.
Ethan Couch will be fitted for a GPS and alcohol monitor after his release, and must adhere to a curfew requiring him to be at home between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. every day, reports CBS DFW. Should he get a driver’s license, Couch will be required to have an ignition interlock device attached to that vehicle, the station reports.
If Couch were to violate the terms of his release, he could face up to 10 years in prison each of the four people he killed, according to CBS DFW.
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