A man who became known as the ‘affluenza teen’ for his unusual defense at a 2013 manslaughter trial is set to be released from a Texas jail after prosecutors raised questions Friday about a drug test that triggered an alleged probation violation.
Ethan Couch, 22, avoided prison following his initial conviction for killing four people while driving drunk.¬†
He was instead sentenced to 10 years of probation after a trial in which a psychologist testified that Couch – 16 at the time of the crash – was affected by ‘affluenza,’ or irresponsibility caused by family wealth.
Couch was arrested Thursday after probation officers reported that a drug monitoring patch he wears returned a ‘weak positive’ result for THC, the psychoactive substance found in marijuana, District Attorney Sharen Wilson said in a statement.¬†
But it is possible the patch was set off by legal CBD oil and it will take further testing to be sure, she said.
Couch’s lawyers said they are optimistic the tests will verify he did not use a prohibited substance.
‘Ethan is committed to his sobriety and to remaining compliant with all of the terms and conditions imposed by the court,’ attorneys Scott Brown and Reagan Wynn said in a statement.
‘Affluenza’ teen Ethan Couch (pictured in Thursday’s mugshot) was arrested in Texas after testing positive for THC while on probation, but authorities on Friday raised doubts about the test
Tarrant County Jail records show that the 22-year-old was taken into custody Thursday afternoon. Deputies with the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office said Couch violated his probation by testing positive for THC, which is the active ingredient in marijuana
On June 15, 2013, Couch was behind the wheel of his father’s red Ford F-350 pick-up, speeding 70mph down the road from his home in Burleson, Texas, where he had hosted a drunken teenage party
A spokeswoman for the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office confirmed he is to be released from a Fort Worth jail, which his attorneys said would happen either Friday or Monday ahead of further investigation and testing.
In a Friday court filing, prosecutors said that after getting the drug test result a court officer wanted Couch in custody to ensure he doesn’t shave his head because his hair might be needed for a follow-up test.
The court officer declined to comment. The Tarrant County probation office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
CBD, short for cannabidiol, is one of many chemicals found in cannabis.¬†
Most CBD is made from hemp, a low-THC relative of marijuana that was legalized by the 2018 federal farm bill.
Texas later approved hemp cultivation, creating a haze of legal confusion because most state crime labs can’t do the testing to tell the difference between the cannabis plant and its illegal cousin, marijuana.
On June 15, 2013, Couch was behind the wheel of his father’s red Ford F-350 pick-up, speeding 70mph from his home in Burleson, Texas, where he had hosted a drunken teenage party.¬†
Earlier in the day he and two friends had stolen three cases of Miller Light from a local Walmart.
As the party got into swing, one of the guests found she needed a tampon and everyone piled into the truck to go to a nearby convenience store.
The then-16-year-old smashed into an SUV that had stopped by the side of the road after its tire blew, killing its driver Breanna Mitchell, 24.
The crash also killed three people who had to come to her aid, including Brian Jennings, who was on the way home from his son’s graduation, and mother and daughter Hollie and Shelby Boyles.
Sergio Molina, one of Couch’s passengers, was left paralyzed and can now only communicate by blinking.¬†¬†
After the crash, Couch was found to be three times over the legal blood/alcohol limit. He also had marijuana and Valium in his system.
A judge in Fort Worth gave him 10 years’ probation on the understanding he go into rehab and refrain from drinking, but he and his mother Tonya fled to Mexico in 2015 after a video of him at a beer pong party was posted online.¬†
The video did not show him drinking.¬†
At Couch’s trial, psychologist Dick Miller said that the teen suffered from ‘affluenza’, a term coined decades earlier to explain the downside of having too much.¬†
He said his parents had not taught him wrong from right. Instead of being taught the golden rule, Miller said, Ethan was taught: ‘We have the gold, we make the rules.’¬†
Victims: Couch slammed into the SUV of 24-year-old Breanna Mitchell (left). Brian Jennings (right), who was on the way home from his son’s graduation, was also killed
Mother and daughter Hollie (left) and Shelby Boyles (right) were also killed in the 2013 crash
Sergio Molina, one of Couch’s passengers, was paralyzed and can now communicate only by blinking
Though Couch killed four and left a fifth victim paralyzed, he wasn’t initially sentenced to any jail time.¬†Because of his affluenza, he was instead sentenced to just 10 years of probation.
Judge Jean Boyd accepted Miller’s argument and gave him a sentence that was heavily criticized.
But after the video showing Couch at a beer pong party in 2015, he and his mother¬†fled to Puerto Vallerta, Mexico, with the family dog, and were later picked up by police and taken back to the United States.¬†
The mother-son pair were caught when authorities traced an order for Domino’s pizza made from one of their smartphones.¬†¬†
When he returned, his probation was being supervised by the juvenile court system, which meant he could only be on probation until his 19th birthday in April 2016.¬†
At that time he was transferred to the adult probation system and given 180 days for each of the four people killed.¬†
Those sentences were served consecutively.
Couch has a 9pm curfew and wears a GPS and alcohol monitor. He also has an ignition interlock device attached to his car.
Since Couch was released from jail in April 2018, his family has had multiple run-ins with the law.¬†
Couch’s father, Frederick, was charged with assault after allegedly trying to choke his girlfriend in September 2019.¬†
Frederick was¬†accused of grabbing Brandi Gober around her throat or neck and applying pressure on July 14, according to the Forth Worth Star-Telegram.¬†¬†
Police with the Tarrant County Sheriff‚Äôs Office investigated the case and Frederick was charged¬†with ‘assault of a house member by impeding her breath’.
Frederick was also sentenced to one year’s probation in 2016 for allegedly pretending to be a cop during an incident in North Richland Hills.
Couch’s mother, Tonya, was also put behind bars for the third time in April 2019 after she failed a drug test.¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†
Since Couch was released from jail in April 2018, his family has multiple run-ins with the law. His dad, Frederick, was arrested in September 2019 and his mother, Tonya, was arrested for the third time in April 2019