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World & Nation

Texas man who used ‘affluenza’ as defense jailed for probation violation

Ethan Couch
Ethan Couch is led to a court hearing in Fort Worth in 2016. Couch, now 22, tested positive for THC, court records show.
(Associated Press)

A Texas man who used “affluenza” as a defense at his trial for killing four people while driving drunk was arrested Thursday after authorities say he violated the terms of his probation.

Ethan Couch, 22, was booked into a jail in Fort Worth after he tested positive for THC, the psychoactive compound in marijuana, court records show.

Couch’s attorneys, Scott Brown and Reagan Wynn, said their client has been intensely monitored for alcohol and illegal substance use for more than 20 months and “has never been positive for the use of any substance before.”

“We cannot make any further statement until we have the opportunity to conduct an investigation to determine if, in fact, Ethan ingested THC and, if so, if it was a voluntary act on his part,” Brown and Wynn said in a statement.

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Jail records did not indicate whether his bond had been set Thursday afternoon.

Couch became known as the “affluenza teen” during his manslaughter trial for the 2013 crash. Couch, 16 at the time of the crash, was found to have had a blood-alcohol level three times the legal limit for adult drivers. But a psychologist told a juvenile court that he was affected by “affluenza,” or irresponsibility caused by family wealth.

A judge originally sentenced Couch to 10 years of probation. But he was later jailed after attending a party where alcohol was served and then fleeing to Mexico with his mother to avoid punishment. He was released in 2018 after serving a nearly two-year sentence.

In 2013, Couch lost control of his family’s pickup truck after he and his friends had played beer pong and drank beer stolen from a Walmart. He veered into a crowd of people helping the driver of a disabled vehicle on the side of the road. Authorities later estimated that he was going 70 mph in a 40-mph zone.

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The crash fatally injured the stranded motorist, a youth minister who stopped to help her and a mother and daughter who came out of their nearby home. Tonya Couch, Ethan’s mother, is awaiting trial on charges of hindering apprehension of a felon and money laundering arising from when they fled to Mexico in 2015. She has been in and out of jail since then.


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