A Texan who was dubbed the “affluenza teen” is due to be released from jail on Monday after serving nearly two years for killing four people while driving drunk and later fleeing to Mexico with his mother.
The case made headlines worldwide after lawyers for Ethan Couch argued that his wealthy upbringing impaired his ability to tell right from wrong.
Couch, who is being released a few days before his 21st birthday, will remain under strict probation supervision after he is freed from the Tarrant County Jail, the county sheriff’s office said.
No time has been set for his release, but the sheriff’s office for the county, which includes Fort Worth, begins processing inmates at 8 a.m., office spokesman David McClelland said.
“Mr. Couch will be processed when his folder is pulled,” he said in an email.
Couch was 16 and had a blood alcohol level three times the legal limit for an adult when he struck and killed four people in June 2013 with his pickup truck.
At his trial in juvenile court that year, a psychologist testifying on his behalf described Couch as suffering from “affluenza.” The psychologist said it was an affliction brought on by being spoiled by his parents and that it had skewed his moral compass.
Couch was sentenced to 10 years of probation, sparking outrage from critics who ridiculed the affluenza defense and said his family’s wealth had helped keep him out of jail.
But in late 2015, when a social media video surfaced that showed him in possible violation of his drug-and-drink-free probation, he and his mother, Tonya Couch, fled the United States for Mexico, where the two were later apprehended and deported.
In 2016, a Tarrant County judge transferred Ethan Couch’s probation supervision to the adult system and ordered him to serve 720 days in jail, 180 days for each of his four victims.
That sentence was seen as the maximum possible, given the various legal mechanisms of a case that spanned the juvenile and adult systems, legal officials said.
His mother, 50, had been free on bond while awaiting trial on charges related to aiding her son flee the country. She was sent back to jail last week for violating her probation by failing a drug test, according to online jail records and local law enforcement.
Reporting by Marice Richter and Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Steve Orlofsky