Almost exactly two years ago, Ethan Couch walked away from the drunken-driving crash that killed four people without serving a day in prison. The reason? “Affluenza,” the defense that his attorneys used to convince a judge to give the poor little rich kid probation — the idea that his wealth actually disadvantaged Couch to the point of victimhood. Even probation was too much for the Couches, though; Ethan and his mom went on the lam earlier this month, leaving nothing behind but one of Ethan’s pinball machines. Authorities assumed that the two had fled the country.
And, as it turns out, they were right. Mexican police arrested Couch and his mother this morning despite an attempt to blend in by dyeing his hair and beard. How effective was that? Think Robby Benson in Walk Proud:
Mexican authorities have been lending support to the search since Friday, according to the Attorney General’s office for the state of Jalisco.
It said in a statement that Couch and his mother had been into custody around 6 p.m. on Monday evening in the coastal resort city of Puerto Vallarta and had been handed over to immigration authorities.
The Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office also confirmed that Couch and his mother were in Mexican custody, but did not provide further details. It was not immediately clear when Couch would be transferred to the U.S.
Puerto Vallarta? Maybe there is something to this “affluenza” defense after all. If you’re an American on the run and trying to disappear into Mexico — which is really the only reason to flee there in the first place — why would you pick a resort to which Americans flock, especially with that dye job? The case had received lots of media attention over the last couple of weeks, and the people who would have paid the most attention to it would be congregating in a place like Puerto Vallarta. It sounds like the Couches thought going on the lam meant getting room service and having access to spa facilities.
As the report notes, the decision to flee the country didn’t take place on a whim. Video emerged of Couch violating his probation by drinking, and the court could have ended his probation and forced him to serve the rest of the time in prison. The next judge to deal with Couch would have almost certainly done so, given all of the embarrassment from the original trial judge’s decision to give validity to the defense that Couch’s upbringing as a spoiled, selfish brat was a Get Out Of Jail Free card, almost literally. Their attorneys will have a much tougher time keeping the prison sentence down to the original 10 years after this stunt, and Tonya Couch will be serving some time behind bars herself. That is, they’ll both be at the Graybar Hotel unless they get fortunate enough to find another judge more gullible than the first.
The families of Couch’s victims will get a grim sense of satisfaction at being proven correct. Perhaps this might expedite any legal claims they have in progress against the Couches as well. They’ve waited a long time for justice.
Update: In case you don’t recall, here’s a scene from Walk Proud, a rare misstep for Benson back in the day:
“Sarah” was played by Sarah Holcomb, a young actress who made her mark in two classic comedies, Animal House and Caddyshack, before dropping out of Hollywood altogether.