June 15, 2013, 11:45pm, south Ft. Worth, Texas. There was an accident. Simple enough. Breanna Mitchell lost control of her SUV and went into a ditch. She was uninjured, she had not injured anyone else.
A mother and her daughter, 42-year-old Hollie Boyles and 21-year-old Shelby Boyles, went to assist Breanna.
A youth pastor, 43-year-old Brian Jennings, driving by with his children stopped to offer help as well.
This is how we all hope things would play out were we to find ourselves in a similar scenario. Good Samaritans doing what they do - being decent human beings, admirable stewards of humanity, as it were.
What should have been a footnote in the history of these people's lives; a bill for towing to the nearest garage; some hugs and handshakes exchanged in appreciation, instead became a defining moment that ended their lives, and altered the lives of many more.
As they rendered aid and fellowship, 17 year old Ethan Couch - with a blood alcohol content of .24 (and Valium in his system) from partying with friends - mowed them down with his red pick-up truck. Driving 70 in a 40, the impact threw the four 50-60 yards through the air.
In total, 16 people were involved, four died. Friends packed into the pick-up truck cab and bed were injured - several seriously, one no longer able to speak or move because of a brain injury.
Ethan and his buddies had stolen beer from a Walmart to aid in their partying. Crime #1. Underage drinking. Crime #2. Driving while drunk. Crime #3 Killing four people and seriously injuring others. Crime #4.
You would think that the punishment would be pretty much cut and dried, right? After all we are talking about a person on the edge of legal adulthood who did all of the above knowingly, willingly. Prison, period. HE. KILLED. FOUR. PEOPLE.
But no. Enter a defense counsel with money at their disposal courtesy of this piece of shit's parents.
End result? Yesterday he was sentenced to 10 years probation and treatment for - are you ready? - affluenza.
No jail time. No true closure or justice for the grieving families who lost their loved ones. No emotional recompense for the family of the kid who is now trapped inside a body that can no longer function.
Defense psychologist, Dr. Gary Miller, argued that the poor lad suffers from affluenza - basically, he's rich and mummsy and daddy dear never taught him consequences or denied him anything. Stated Miller, "his family felt that wealth bought privilege and there was no rational link between behavior and consequences."
Affluenza. Like it's some virus he caught. Such utter, reprehensible bullshit.
This is a 17 year old. I don't care if he was never taught actions = consequences in the confines of his own lavish home. He goes to school in the real world, hangs out with people in the real world. He is not ignorant to people getting in trouble for their behaviors. Even the most indulged 10 year old has a cursory understanding of right vs wrong.
We are not talking about I-was-driving-sober-lost-control-accidentally-hit-these-people-oh-my-God-I-am-so-sorry-and-will-live-the-rest-of-my-life-with-this-guilt. No, we are talking, I-stole-washed-Valium-down-with-beer-drove-and-killed-some-people-but-hey-I'm-rich-so-what's-wrong?
Wrong is stealing two cases of beer from a Walmart. Wrong is being stopped by police in February with beer and a bottle of vodka in his possession. Wrong is being found passed out in a car with a naked 14 year old. Wrong is getting behind the wheel and hitting the road.
And WRONG is this heinous "sentence" that will allow him to get "treatment" for his "I'm a rich kid" disease in a posh $450,000 a year treatment facility near Newport Beach, California. A fee Daddy dear is happy to pay.
And what of the parents? Is their only punishment having to pay for the retreat on the beach? Surely, if their precious cherub suffered from affluenza, they are the ones who infected him, right? Shouldn't they be punished, or put down like the threatening rabid dogs they are?
Affluenza. Seriously, I am stunned. My children have never wanted for anything in their lives. While we are not rich, we are most certainly comfortable in this life, meaning they have a lot.
But they also know right from wrong. Wearing nice clothes does not mean they treat people like shit. Having the latest iPhone does not mean they act with impunity. Getting to go on cruises does not mean they are better and worth more than anyone else.
By this psychologist's logic, being rich is an affliction that offers immunity for one's actions. So I guess being poor should be a viable defense as well? What if someone steals to feed their family? Should they go to jail? Surely not, as they are victims of their circumstances and have been taught that when they are hungry they need to eat.
What about the poor kid who holds up a store and kills someone in the process? Can't they plead povuenza? If Ethan's rich parents never taught him anything, that same argument can be made for poor kids.
In the fallout of the sentence, his defense attorneys are loudly pointing out that if he doesn't complete treatment or violates his parole he can end up in prison.
That is cold comfort to the families whose grief has been compounded by this DWI - delivery of woefully inadequate justice. The judge has done nothing but validate the premise of the "illness" - that money shields you from consequence.
So, as this human malignancy stares out at the ocean in California, having learned absolutely nothing except "money buys a sweet sentence," these four beautiful, worthwhile human beings lie dead - killed by his "disease."
I feel sick.