Last year, the saga of Ethan Couch came to light when angry people all over the world blasted a judge who said the 17-year-old suffered from “affluenza” and only sentenced him to probation in the drunk driving incident that left four people dead. Now, a judge has only required Couch’s parents to pay for a small fraction of his monthly rehabilitation bill, leaving the rest to taxpayers.
On June 15, 2013, 16-year-old Ethan Couch got drunk and crashed his car into a group of pedestrians, killing four and injuring two. During the trial, Couch’s attorneys argued that the boy suffered from “affluenza,” meaning that coming from wealthy parents made him feel entitled and therefore make bad decisions. The attorneys argued that Couch needed rehabilitation, not jail, and in the end, the judge agreed.
Dr. Dick Miller, the psychologist who first used the term “affluenza” while in court, defended his stance during the trial.
“He pled guilty. He said ‘I did it’” said Miller. “[He said] ‘I was there, I was in the truck, I was driving and we ran over four people.’ My responsibility is to say what is best for this child. What’s best for this 16-year-old boy? And that’s what I told the judge. I used my 30 years of experience to say among the choices, with the kinds of resources that we had, what’s the best treatment for this kid? I don’t believe going to the penitentiary was best for him.”
Now, a judge says that Couch’s parents will only have to pay $1,170 a month towards the boy’s rehabilitation, despite the fact that the services cost $715 a day. The rest of the money, shockingly, will come from the taxpayers’ pockets.
"The family respects the decision of the facility and the court, and will honor the payment system the court has put in place," said Lance Evans, attorney for Fred and Tonya Couch.
So far, most of the victims’ families have settled or are in the process of settling with Ethan Couch’s parents, but the family of Lucas McConnell, who was killed at just 13 years old, says they refuse to settle their lawsuit against the Couch family.
"It's just another step in a long journey,” said Kevin McConnell to WFAA. “We plan to be there for all the steps."
For now, Ethan Couch remains on probation and will spend, reportedly, at least six months in a rehab facility while the American taxpayers, including family members of the victims, will foot most of the bill.
A North Texas mother is facing manslaughter charges after she allegedly lost control of her car while intoxicated, killing two of her children and injuring two others.
Crystal Suniga, 30, was charged Sunday after crashing her Honda Pilot, carrying her four children, into two parked cars in Irving around 8 pm Saturday.
Police believe she was speeding, driving between 60 and 90 mph in a neighborhood where the speed limit is 30.
The vehicle then rolled onto its side and landed against a house. The four children had been wearing seatbelts, Suniga was not.
Suniga’s 10-year-old son Ricardo Hernandez and 14-year-old son Angel Reyes were both partially ejected and then pinned under the car. They died at the scene.
Her 16-year-old son suffered a crushed pelvis and is being treated at Parkland Memorial Hospital. Her 12-year-old daughter suffered minor injuries and was treated at Children’s Medical Center of Dallas.
Suniga, who sustained minor injuries, was charged with two counts of intoxication manslaughter, two counts of injury to a child, and one count of intoxication assault.
“Certainly it’s tragic,” said police spokesman James McLellan said. “Here’s someone who caused the death of her two children. It was completely avoidable and unnecessary, but she still needs to be held accountable.”
The SUV landed in Eric Sorto’s yard; he had been sleeping at the time of the crash. The vehicle narrowly missed his front bedroom where he and his girlfriend were sleeping.
A group of neighbors tried to pull Suniga and the children from the wreck, but they couldn't get to the boys who were pinned.
“It was like a nightmare,” he said, “like seeing something you’d see in a movie.”
Police markings of tire tracks in the yard show Suniga was driving the wrong way before she veered into the correct lane, jumped the curb and landed on Sorto’s lawn.
11Substance Abuse Counselor Who Drove Drunk With Dying Man On Her Car Scheduled To Be Sentenced In June
Sherri Lynn Wilkins, the substance abuse counselor who drove drunk, hit a man, and drove with him stuck on her windshield for two miles, will have to wait another few months to be sentenced after being convicted of second-degree murder earlier this year.
On November 24, 2012, Wilkins, 52, was driving her car through a Los Angeles suburb when she struck 31-year-old Phillip Moreno. Wilkins, whose blood alcohol level was more than double the legal limit at 0.17, kept driving after hitting Moreno. Wilkins hit the man so hard that his pants and shoes flew off his body. For two miles, Wilkins drove around with the dying man stuck to her windshield and even called her husband two times during the drive. Finally, a group of onlookers convinced her to pull over, and once she did, Moreno’s chances of living were slim.
Moreno was pronounced dead a short time later, once he arrived at the hospital, and authorities say that if Wilkins had pulled over immediately after the crash, Moreno could still be alive today.
During the trial, Wilkins’ defense team argued that Moreno intentionally jumped in front of the woman’s car, but Deputy District Attorney John Harlan said that regardless of the circumstances, Wilkins made the choice to keep driving with Moreno stuck in her windshield.
“We do not tolerate someone who does not pull over when they see someone on their windshield,” said Harlan following the guilty verdict. “Wilkins consciously disregarded her victim as a human being.”
Wilkins faces 45 years to life behind bars, and although she was already set to be sentenced, a judge has postponed the hearing until June.
A suspected drunk driver attempting to outrun police slammed into a crowd of people on the street in Austin, Texas, early Thursday.
Two died and at least 23 people were injured in the collision outside Mohawk Bar on Red River Street at 12:30 a.m. The bar was hosting the 27th annual SXSW festival.
The two people who died were on a moped, which was rammed by the driver, according to Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo.
The car crashed into a cab and the driver leapt out and tried to run. Police at the scene apprehended him with a stun gun.
Acevedo said the car chase occurred when an officer at a drunk-driving checkpoint attempted to stop a silver Toyota sedan.
The driver veered into a gas station to avoid the checkpoint and took off going the wrong way down E. 9th Street. He made a right on Red River, barely missing a police officer, then plowed through security barricades and hit concertgoers at the Mohawk bar.
Acevedo described it as a "total disregard for the sanctity of human life."
A teenager involved in a gruesome drunk driving accident had her cell phone camera recording when the crash occurred.
The surviving teenager is Desaleen James. She was the only one to survive the crash. James and her friends were driving home from a night out at a Maryland club when the crash took place. James admits that despite being underage, she and her friends had no trouble drinking alcohol that night.
“It was very easy,” she said. “I just had to pay the guy at the door $10 not to put an X on my hands.”
On their drive home, one of James’ friends is heard proudly exclaiming, “We’re driving drunk!”
Then, in a span of just six seconds, the girl’s singing and laughter turns to screams as their car runs off the road and crashes into a brick wall.
Police say the car was travelling at 94 miles an hour when it crashed.
"My friend,” James is heard telling a witness. "My friend just crashed. My friend just crashed."
James was the only person to survive the crash that night. She was wearing her seatbelt and suffered a broken hip. She gave a reflective interview with WUSA9 before the station aired her video.
“I wouldn’t want anyone else, not even my worst enemy, to walk in my shoes right now,” she said. “I can’t cry anymore … You never think that something like this is going to happen to you. It's one in a million, like, and then boom. It hits you. And there you are that one in a million."
James hopes her video can strike a chord amongst people who think they are immune to the dangers of drunk driving.
“Maybe I’m here to save someone else,” she said.
28 people die in America every day in drunk driving accidents.
Here is James' footage and interview:
Witness cell phone video out of Richmond, Va., shows a seemingly drunk woman inexplicably getting out of a DUI.
The incident started around 12:30 a.m. early Sunday morning after a car crash took place on East Broad Street. According to witnesses, a man driving a small SUV hit a parked car. Police arrived at the scene and arrested the driver of the SUV. But as police and witnesses remained outside at the scene of the accident, something far more strange took place.
According to witness S. Preston Duncan, a woman driving well over the speed limit blew through two stop signs and almost hit police and witnesses at the scene of the accident.
“The car blew through the stop sign without decelerating, and we were forced to flee the street towards the sidewalk,” Duncan wrote in a post recapping the incident. “The oncoming vehicle slammed on its brakes, swerved around the damaged vehicles, nearly hitting the cop car (lights still blaring), and [was] forced to a stop, right where we had all been standing, by one of the officers tending to the accident.”
Duncan says the woman driving the car seemed out of control after being stopped.
According to Duncan, the driver “nearly immediately breaks into hysterics, alternating between what sounds like crying and laughing, and demanding the cop tell her what she "legally did wrong." She then got out of her car, spilling the entire contents of her purse on the street while trying to argue with the attending officer, and stumbled around for a minute before being told to get back in her car. She repeated this scene, minus the purse spilling, at least three times, each time being told forcefully to return to her vehicle. She also hit her face on her steering wheel so hard her horn sounded.
Witnesses then heard the girl mutter words about her father to the attending officer. The officer allowed the girl to call her father, and about 30 minutes later a truck arrived at the scene. A middle-aged man and his wife got out of the truck.
“The Fiat driver once again got out of her car, and started stumbling towards the man from the truck, yelling unintelligibly about the situation,” Duncan wrote. “He shouted, ‘Katie, shut up and get back in the car! I'm going to let them take you if you don't get back in the car NOW!’”
The man and an officer at the scene then walked away and spoke for a few moments. Upon returning, the man walks the incoherent girl from her car to the truck. The man’s wife gets in the girl’s car and drives away. Here’s the complete video:
All together, it looks like someone who at the least should have been administered sobriety tests was let off the hook because of a convenient social connection. The Richmond Police Department says it is aware the cell phone video and is investigating the matter.
When three good Samaritans spotted a blue mini-van driving erratically on a New York highway this past Monday, they boxed him in and called police.
Driver Briana Cole says the driver, 48-year-old Paul Kostraba, was all over Interstate 390.
“I thought somebody was going to die,” Cole told 13WHAM-TV.
Driver Josh Kuba said he suspected Kostraba was having a medical emergency, but when he didn’t respond to attempts to get him to pull over he realized Kostraba might be intoxicated.
Kuba pulled his truck in front of the van to prevent Kostraba from exiting the interstate. Kostraba slammed into his truck.
Cole pulled up behind the van to block him from getting out. A third driver parked alongside Kostraba until police arrived.
“There was no way for him to move,” Cole said. “He tried to start his car and tried to go again, but he had nowhere to go.”
Kostraba was booked into Livingston county jail for DWI and other charges. His license was revoked.
Livingston County Sheriff Tom Dougherty said deputies at the scene described Kostraba as “highly intoxicated,” although they do not know what his blood alcohol level was.
His wife, who was allegedly intoxicated as well, was a passenger in the van.
While Dougherty says the public isn’t encouraged to make such interventions, he thanked the three drivers.
“They felt that this guy was putting everybody in danger,” Dougherty said. “And they didn’t have time for the police to arrive.”
On the night of January 13, 2013, Austin police stopped driver Larry Davis after he ran a stop sign near U.S. 290 and Interstate 35. Davis told them he had only had one drink, but the officers noted that he appeared intoxicated based on his performance in a field sobriety test.
Although Davis insisted he was not drunk, according to the Statesman, the officers took him to the local jail, where he was given a Breathalyzer test.
The test’s results supported Davis’ claim: he blew a 0.00, the lowest possible reading.
Davis also voluntarily took a blood test, the results of which did not come back for months, but which also ultimately returned negative results.
Davis’ arrest last January meant that he spent a day in jail, and was at the center of a criminal case that lasted for more than a year.
Because he was declared indigent, the county picked up his several-hundred-dollar legal fees.
Although police have said that the decision they had to make in this particular case is one they are often presented with, defense lawyers say it shows how “overzealous Austin police can be in making DWI arrests.”
In fact, by the take-no-chances policy by which police operate, if a driver looks drunk, he/she will be arrested, and the court system will work it out in the future.
What this results in is about 30 percent of DWI cases being dismissed.
After viewing the police dash cam footage of Davis’ arrest and reviewing evidence, defense lawyer Daniel Betts said that his “reaction was just shock that it happened.”
Police have stood by their decision to arrest Davis, contending that he may still have been under the influence of drugs such as marijuana at the time.
Cmdr. David Mahoney, the arresting officers’ supervisor, has spoken out in support of the decision. “If there is someone who is possibly impaired, we don’t want them driving,” said Mahoney.
“We need to get them off the road, so that was probably (the officer’s) mindset,” Mahoney continued.
Last week, prosecutors dismissed the case against Davis. Davis is now working to have his arrest record wiped clean, which could take another several months to complete.
“I was arrested for nothing, really,” Davis said. “It was suspicion of drunk driving, which I wasn’t so I was surprised and hurt at the same time.”
Photo Source: http://oaklawn.patch.com
A California man was sent to jail for six years Monday when he was convicted of his eighth driving under the influence charge.
Pablo Servin Sanchez, 50, had a blood alcohol content of at least .31 percent when he was arrested last year. The legal limit is .08 percent.
On Oct. 3, he backed his pickup truck across a highway at 11 a.m., nearly hitting a big-rig.
He was also driving with a suspended license when he was arrested.
“Too many people are injured in our community by DUI drivers,” District Attorny Jill Ravitch said in her statement. “Mr. Sanchez has repeatedly chosen to ignore that risk.”
Of the eight convictions on his record, which span more than 20 years, Sanchez was convicted four times of felony DUI.
Superior Court Judge Shelly Averill sentenced Sanchez to the maximum six years. His license is to remain revoked for 10 years after he leaves prison.
A Texas mother recently confronted a drunk driver jailed for the 2009 collision that left her son in a vegetative state.
Loubna Khader told WFAA-TV she wanted a chance to speak to Stewart Richardson after he appeared on the news saying he was sorry and that he prayed for her son, Abdallah, every night.
On Wednesday she visited him at the Fort Worth jail. Over the protective glass, Khader held up a picture of her son at age two, before the accident. Abdallah is now six.
“Can you hear me? Can you hear me? Look at this face! Look at him!” she cried.
“I’m very sorry. I hope God blesses you very much,” Richardson said.
“I don’t want to hear you, I just want you to hear me today,” she said.
“You think I’m supposed to go home now and my son’s going to be okay because you said you’re sorry?” she shouted. “It’s been five years today! Five years! My son is dying every single day. Every single day he is suffering. He can’t see, he can’t talk, he can’t breathe, he can’t eat. He can’t do anything!”
Richardson hung his head.
“You said you have a picture of my son in your cell?” she asked. “Don’t touch it! Don’t touch it, he’s an angel and you’re a devil and you’re not supposed to touch an angel.”
“I’m never going to forgive you,” she said before she left. “Never gonna forgive you for what you did to my son.”
WFAA received criticism on Facebook for showing the footage, but Khader said she wanted the public to experience the suffering caused by drunk driving.
Richardson pleaded guilty to felony DWI. He also had several DWI arrested in other states before the 2009 accident.
Prosecutors are asking for tougher penalties on several pending charges against Richardson. They believe he appeared on the news in order to portray himself as reformed and more sympathetic.