NPR for North Texas
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

'Affluenza' Teen's Case Moved To Adult Court

Christopher Connelly/KERA
Sergio Molina, lower left, was paralyzed in the drunken driving wreck caused by "affluenza" teen Ethan Couch. His brother, Alex Lumas, said he "got more than ten years probation," a reference to the sentence Couch received after killing four people.

A Texas judge says the case of Ethan Couch, a teenager who used an "affluenza" defense in a fatal drunken-driving wreck, will be moved to adult court.

The Friday ruling means the 18-year-old could face 120 days in jail, then finish his 10-year probation. If he violates his probation during that time, he could get up to 10 years in prison for each crash victim.

Credit Tarrant County Sheriff's Office
Ethan Couch's booking photo after his return from Mexico last month.

  “We have been waiting for this day for the last two years and we are very pleased with the court’s ruling,” said Riley Shaw, a juvenile prosecutor with the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office.

Ethan Couch was 16 at the time of the 2013 crash that killed four people near Fort Worth. During his juvenile trial, a defense expert argued Couch's wealthy parents had coddled him into a sense of irresponsibility.

Couch and his mother disappeared in December, as prosecutors investigated whether he'd violated his probation. They were later found in Mexico and deported.

Scott Brown, an attorney representing the teenager, says he will not ask for any specific probation terms when an adult court takes up the case. An adult-court judge "will impose the terms he sees fit," Brown said.

A hearing to set his probation terms has not yet been scheduled.

Sergio Molina, who was a victim in the 2013 crash, was wheeled into the courthouse by his family. He was one of two survivors in attendance along with relatives of people who were killed. Molina’s injuries left him in a wheelchair and only able to communicate with his eyes. His brother, Alex Lumas says Couch’s sentence is nothing compared to the life his brother now faces.

“Y’all have not even been to my house to see what we have to change, to see what we have to do every day with my brother in order for him to stay stable like this, alive, breathing,” Lumas said.

Lumas told gathered reporters that Couch’s family should help pay for the treatments and services Molina needs.

Christopher Connelly is a reporter covering issues related to financial instability and poverty for KERA’s One Crisis Away series. In 2015, he joined KERA to report on Fort Worth and Tarrant County. From Fort Worth, he also focused on politics and criminal justice stories.