Judge in ‘affluenza’ case rules out jail time for teen driver
HOUSTON - A Texas judge on Wednesday ruled out jail time for a teenager whose defense expert argued he suffered from “affluenza” that led him to drive drunk, crash and kill four people in June.
At the time of the crash, the 16-year-old driver had seven passengers in his Ford F-350, was speeding and had a blood-alcohol level three times the legal limit, according to testimony at trial. He struck and killed four pedestrians: Brian Jennings, 43; Breanna Mitchell, 24; Shelby Boyles, 21; and her mother, Hollie Boyles, 52.
Two 15-year-olds were thrown from the bed of the pickup and severely wounded, according to a statement from prosecutors.
Sergio Molina suffered a brain injury and is no longer able to move or talk, and Soliman Mohmand suffered broken bones and internal injuries, according to the statement.
When the teenager went on trial in December, prosecutors sought a sentence of 20 years in state custody.
The defense expert, a psychologist, testified that the teen’s cushy upbringing, which resulted in his affluenza, prevented him from connecting bad behavior with its consequences.
After three days of testimony, the teen confessed to intoxication manslaughter, and Texas District Judge Jean Boyd sentenced him to 10 years’ probation. During his probation, he is barred from driving and consuming alcohol.
At the time, Boyd did not sentence the teen in connection with two intoxication assault charges for those injured in the crash.
Prosecutors this week pressed for the same 20-year sentence in association with those charges.
Boyd closed Wednesday’s hearing in Fort Worth, barring the public and the news media despite prosecutors’ objections. She then declined to enter a separate verdict on the assault cases.
Instead, Boyd ordered the teen to be sent to a locked rehabilitation facility paid for by his parents, according to a prosecutors’ statement. The family previously offered to pay for a $450,000-a-year treatment center in California. Their attorney could not be reached for comment late Wednesday.
“It is our hope that the attention drawn by this case highlights the dangers associated with driving while intoxicated, and will ensure that a tragedy such as this one will never happen again,” said Tarrant County Assistant Dist. Atty. Riley Shaw.
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