The families of six people who were killed or injured in a drunken driving crash have sued a teenager who avoided jail time by blaming his parents’ wealth for his actions.
A judge sentenced 16-year-old Ethan Couch to an alcohol treatment facility and 10 years on probation for his conviction on four counts of intoxication manslaughter and two counts of intoxication assault causing serious bodily injury.
Prosecutors said Couch’s blood-alcohol content was three times higher than the legal limit for adults June 15 when he plowed into four pedestrians who stopped to tend to a broken-down vehicle.
All four pedestrians – Breanna Mitchell, Hollie and Shelby Boyles and Brian Jennings – were killed, and two of Couch’s friends were seriously injured in the crash.
Defense attorneys said Couch suffered from “affluenza,” saying the teen’s family was so rich that he didn’t know right from wrong.
The families of his victims have targeted that wealth in five civil lawsuits, including three filed by the survivors of the four people killed in the crash.
Eric Boyles sued for more than $1 million in damages after his wife and daughter were killed.
Marla Mitchell, who was talking to her daughter, Breanna, on the phone when she was killed, is suing for unspecified damages.
Shauna Jennings, the wife of youth pastor Brian Jennings, is also seeking unspecified damages for herself and their three children.
Couch’s friends, Sergio Molina and Lucas McConnell, have also filed lawsuits.
Molina suffered a severe brain injury and was paralyzed, and his family has sued for $20 million in damages. McConnell’s family is seeking unspecified damages.
All the suits were filed between September and November, prior to the teen’s sentencing.
The suits name Couch, his parents and his father’s company, Cleburne Metal Works, which owned the Ford F-350 the teen was driving at the time of the crash.
According to The Daily Mail, the teen’s parents – Fred and Tonya Couch – have more than 20 criminal or traffic offenses on their record but have never served any jail time.
The newspaper reported that court records show Fred Couch has been charged with theft, evading arrest and an assault against his ex-wife, as well as 18 traffic violations.
Two theft charges were related to payments for gasoline and shoes with worthless checks, and both cases were eventually dismissed after he paid restitution.
Tonya Couch has been charged with a misdemeanor count of reckless driving and three counts of failure to adequately secure children under 17 years old.
Judge Jean Boyd has fallen under intense criticism for her sentence, and an online petition drive has gathered nearly 13,000 signatures asking Gov. Rick Perry to remove her from the bench immediately.
Boyd has said she plans to retire when her term ends next year.
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