Judge orders 'affluenza' Texan to spend about 2 years in jail

'Affluenza" Teen Ethan Couch to Remain in Jail
'Affluenza" Teen Ethan Couch to Remain in Jail

FORT WORTH, Texas (Reuters) -- A Texas county judge sentenced the so-called "affluenza" teen on Wednesday to serve four consecutive 180-day terms in jail after he killed four people outside of Fort Worth with his pickup truck while driving drunk in 2013.

Ethan Couch, 19, has been in a Tarrant County jail since January. In his first appearance in adult court, he was given the sentence of almost two years in jail by Judge Wayne Salvant, the maximum allowable probation conditions for the case in the adult system.

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"You are not getting out of jail today," Salvant told Couch, who was wearing a red jumpsuit from the Tarrant County Jail. Salvant said he will hold another hearing in about two weeks to consider the sentence he imposed.

At his trial in juvenile court in 2013 when he was 16, a psychologist testifying on his behalf said Couch was so spoiled by his wealthy parents that he could not tell right from wrong. The psychologist described the affliction as "affluenza," a term that quickly became a media buzzword.

He was sentenced to 10 years of probation, a penalty that sparked outrage from critics who ridiculed the affluenza defense and said his family's wealth helped the teen stay out of jail.

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Tarrant County Sheriff Dee Anderson said Couch's demeanor has changed since being in jail from being quite cocky at first to rather compliant.

The change is due to the "stark reality he is dealing with today," Anderson told reporters at court, adding Couch will remain in solitary confinement for his own protection.

Couch was taken into custody in Texas after he fled to Mexico in December with his mother, apparently to avoid arrest for violating the drink- and drug-free terms of the probation deal after video on social media appeared to show him at a party where alcohol was being consumed.

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Judge Salvant is also presiding over the case of his mother, Tonya Couch.

She is charged with helping her son flee to Mexico. She was released on bail but is under home confinement awaiting trial.

If convicted, she faces up to 10 years in prison.