15 December 2013


by Leigh Lundin

I recently read that students of today confuse the word ‘irony’ with ‘coincidence’:
“Angie’s parents like won the lottery last month and again this month. Like seriously, that’s so ironic.”
Following, you’ll find a defense attorney’s argument that’s all about irony. And sarcasm. But first, the story, which is too unrealistic for fiction.

Imagine a 16-year-old boy with fabulously wealthy if inattentive parents. Let’s call him Ethan. Barriers for ordinary people aren’t obstacles for the privileged, his family, the 1%ers.† For example, he began driving at age 13. And drinking.

Like any teen, Ethan’s all about fun. Last year, he wakes up in the bed of Daddy’s pickup with a naked unconscious 14-year-old girl. But Ethan’s wealthy and that little problem goes away.

Little Ethan and seven of his closest friends try to buy booze but they're carded and already partially inebriated. In a burst of alcohol-fueled genius, they shoplift two cases of beer from WalMart. After slamming 48, Ethan and friends hop in Ethan’s Ford F350 pickup, which isn’t legal for him to drive without an adult. Because such rules and 40mph zones aren’t meant for the likes of them, he drives 70.

Ethan Crouch © WFAA
Ethan Couch, perpetrator © WFAA

Boyles, victims

Jennings, Mitchel, victims
And loses control. The truck goes airborne, flips upside down. Ploughs into people, places, and things. Gives one of his friends permanent brain damage. Injures nine bystanders. Kills four more.

Police come. Ethan’s blood showed Valium and an alcohol content of 0.24%, three times the legal limit– except for a 16-year-old, there’s no such thing as a legal limit above zero.

But that’s a concern for ordinary people. Ethan’s not about to put up with their crap. He says “I’m outta here.” But investigators do their best Columbo and detain young Ethan.

Normally, Daddy would pull out his wallet, problem solved. But the prosecutor is one of the rabble who disdains special privileges and socialism for the wealthy. He assembles charges that could total twenty years if the judge throws the book at the lad.

And this is a tough, hang-em, Texas judge, Jean Boyd. Just last year she gave a 14-year-old kid ten years for felling and killing a man with a sucker punch. Not saying she didn't do the right thing, but that kid was poor and black, and she understands privilege and wealth.

From the prosecution’s standpoint, they probably think they have a slam dunk:
√   drunk on stolen booze
√   Valium on board
√   not licensed to drive
√   70mph in 40mph zone
√   a dozen or more injured
√   1 with permanent brain damage
√   4 people dead
√   mouthy to police
But they don’t count on the defense’s ‘affluenza’ argument and the judge going all soft at the knees over privilege and wealth.

Affluenza? What’s that? Defense psychologist Gary Miller blames the teen's behavior on the parents, claiming they give him whatever he wants including “freedoms no young person should have.” The doctor continues, “The teen never learned to say that he's sorry. … If you hurt someone, you sent him money.”

This is where irony comes in, also where the case makes headlines. According to the defense attorney, our callow fellow is the product of ‘affluenza,’ where “his family felt their wealth bought privilege and there was no rational link between behavior and consequences.” Because of this terrible upbringing, our overly indulged lad is never punished for anything, so Ethan’s attorney argues he shouldn’t be punished now.


Swayed by the heart-wrenching story of the awfulness of affluenza, Judge Jean Boyd, completely unaware of the irony of her actions, grants the defense’s motion that punishment for someone never punished would be too awful for a humane society to wreak upon our wealthy youth of today.

For a tad under a half-million dollars, poor rich little Ethan will have to spend time at a fabulous, er, tough oceanside rehab resort with swimming pools, a water slide, ‘delicate’ expensive furnishings, and gourmet dining, where one can partake of “chef-prepared meals, equine therapy, martial-arts training, yoga and nature hikes,” where one can “reflect, feel engaged and have social contact,” and where the very rich can get “the unconditional love they require.”

Their executive chef from the Laguna Professional Culinary Arts also acts as private chef to the monetarily afflicted. “Part of her talent is to construct creative menus.” Really now, Julie, those French truffles are yesterday's?

When all’s said and done, I don’t want Ethan’s life ruined. But like anyone else, he should experience consequences, which the judge seems to have missed. That’s irony.

To be clear, as an ardent entrepreneur, I’m hardly anti-wealth, but I find entitlement troubling. I simply oppose socialism for the wealthy.


  1. Is “affluenza” even defined in the DSM?

    Even in Texas, money doesn’t just talk, it shouts, except if you’re poor.

  2. This beggars belief. Failed by his parents and the courts. Had I read this in a novel (particularly his ‘punishment’) I’d have thought it a joke. Any comment from the families of those he damaged and destroyed?

  3. Louis, you've got that right!

    ABA, you're right– no fiction author could get away with such a plot.

    A few articles say the victims' kin are subdued. The man killed was a youth pastor, so you wouldn't expect outrageous behavior from his folks. The families agree the boy suffers from 'affluenza', but are disappointed in the verdict.

  4. Once again, fact IS stranger than fiction. This is unbelievable.

  5. Affluenza: A disease suffered by spoiled rich brats whose family can afford the best lawyers to come up with this defense. What really bugs me about this is the double standard of the judge.

    This kid should serve time like any other kid, rich or poor. Why does having money make him any better than the next?

  6. John, I can imagine an editor telling a writer to come back when he can plot realistically.

    Herschel, it violates everything a judge is supposed to be: fair and even-handed. No kid should be punished worse because of his wealth, but also no better.

  7. I heard the kid is also not permitted contact with his parents for two years.

    That seems an "unusual punishment" I'd think would be unlikely to stand. I suppose, however, it might be possible to engage a retroactive removal of "the child" from a "damaging home life"???

    Of course, the entire idea of "afluenza" seems more than just a bit "unusual" to me.

  8. "Affluenza" - or one more case where the rich get away with murder! Literally. I've been disgusted ever since I heard about this on the news. Leigh, you're a much nicer person than I am, because I don't care if his life is ruined for a while. Up here we had a 14 year old, Paul Dean Jensen, who in 1996 killed a cab driver in a botched robbery attempt. He was given life in prison without parole. Now, after 17 years in prison, he is challenging his sentence and, I believe, rightly so. I don't believe in life without parole for teenagers. But the idea that this kid can kill 4 people with a car and leave one brain-injured for life and get literally nothing...

  9. Several hours ago in a closed hearing, the judge reaffirmed our little lad will receive no jail or prison time. The boy’s attorneys complained the media “twisted” their “affluenza” remarks and sought a closed-door hearing. The judge, perhaps stung by criticisms, was more than happy to oblige, but proved unwilling to punish the young killer.

  10. As a criminal defense lawyer in Chicago, it seems that every day I get calls from potential clients who have been arrested for retail theft, or what you may call shoplifting. Most of the people are very nice and are quite embarrassed. These men and women are also concerned about the potential consequences of an arrest for retail theft offense.
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  11. You can certainly avail the benefits of online court approved theft classes if it is your first time to commit such a crime. For the past few years, the experts have found out that the potential crimes are reduced because of the help of court approved theft classes provide to remedy the psychological needs of the offenders.For best IDEA: [http://www.theftpreventionclass.com] Court approved shoplifting class

  12. Shoplifting and Theft Prevention classes are designed to meet the needs of those who have been accused of shoplifting. Participants are supportively led to identify and understand the issues

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