Ethan Couch sparked outrage when the teen successfully used an “affluenza” defense after killing four people in a drunk-driving crash, and now he is again drawing controversy after a new video shows him playing beer pong in an apparent violation of his parole terms.
The video emerged this week, adding more controversy to a case that already has generated plenty of anger and accusations that the teen was unfairly helped by the legal process.
Couch was 16 when he got behind the wheel of his pickup truck after drinking with some friends. With his friends riding unsecured in the back, Couch drove at speeds up to 70 miles per hour and crashed into two cars that had stopped by the side of the road. Four people were killed in the crash and others suffered serious and some life-long injuries.
— FOX 4 NEWS (@FOX4) December 3, 2015
Despite the fact that the teen’s blood alcohol content was three times the legal limit when the crash took place, Ethan Couch was able to avoid jail time when his attorney, Reagan Wynn, argued that the teen suffered from affluenza. As CNN noted, Wynn argued Couch grew up in a home where he was not given limits, which he said stunted the teen’s emotional growth, maturity, and ability to make reasonable decisions.
A judge ultimately sentenced Ethan Couch to 10 years of probation and made the teen’s parents pay for him to go to rehab at a cost of close to $500,000 per year.
Now, if the newly released video is accurate, Ethan Couch could be headed back to jail. A six-second video was uploaded to Twitter on Wednesday showing a person identified as Couch playing beer pong.
“ya boy ethan couch violating probation. i got more if u want,” Twitter user @BlondeSpectre wrote, also forwarding the message to the Tarrant County district attorney’s office.
— h (@BlondeSpectre) December 2, 2015
In the video, a young man is seen holding a ping pong ball waiting to throw it, but he then dives into the table instead, sending beer crashing to the ground. It appears that Couch is standing behind the table during the incident.
The terms of Couch’s parole specified that he could not use drugs or alcohol. He faces up to 10 years in prison for violating parole.
The district attorney’s office confirmed to the Dallas News on Thursday that they were investigating the video. The office added that they would be interviewing people seen on the video about the incident.
Tarrant County sheriff’s spokesman Terry Grisham added that it would be up to a judge if Couch were sent to prison.
“He’s allowed due process at every level,” Grisham said. “[Cases] are not prosecuted or revoked or modified based on hearsay or based on a grainy video that we can’t identify someone in.”
The original case generated nationwide controversy in 2013, not just for the teen’s unusual defense but also the judge’s seeming acceptance of it. To critics, the case showed that the justice system operates differently for those with money, noting that a child from a working class background in the same situation would likely have seen jail time.
— Dallas Morning News (@dallasnews) December 3, 2015
Others were angry at Couch’s attorney, Wynn, who said the judge’s decision was fair:
“She heard all the evidence and she made what she thought was the appropriate disposition… I think he can be rehabilitated given intensive therapy and I hope that he gets it… The juvenile system is about rehabilitation… she (Boyd) absolutely made the right decision.”
Ethan Couch is not the only family member who may be headed to jail. His father, Frederick Couch, is appearing in court on Friday to face charges that he falsely identified himself as a police officer during a domestic disturbance.
[Photo by LM Otero/AP Images]