Officials Enlist National Media In Search For “Affluenza” Probationer


Most law enforcement officials don't enlist the national media to help find a guy who missed a meeting with his probation officer, but most fugitives aren't Ethan Couch, says the Dallas Morning News. The 18-year-old avoided jail time after he killed four bystanders in a drunken crash. His story prompted national outrage after his lawyers argued that his wealthy upbringing spoiled his moral code. Now that Couch has vanished, authorities have launched the kind of widely publicized, nationwide manhunt usually reserved for murderers and other suspects who intentionally hurt others. Why is Couch getting the Bonnie and Clyde treatment? “One word: affluenza,” said Toby Shook, a former top Dallas County prosecutor. “It was a local, tragic story until that defense expert used the word 'affluenza.' That just hit a nerve and it went national. I really haven't seen anything like it.”

Authorities were already angry that Couch had, in their view, got away with killing four people because he was too rich and spoiled to be incarcerated. And when he appeared to be caught on video at a party featuring beer pong — seemingly not taking his probation seriously — law enforcement was enraged further. Then Couch missed a probation meeting. He and his mother couldn't be found. The U.S. Marshals Service issued a warrant for his arrest on Dec. 11. That's not uncommon for a felony-level probationer; the marshals' job is to hunt down fugitives, especially those who may have fled the state. In this case, the FBI also offered assistance. But the public manhunt was unusual. On Monday, the Tarrant County sheriff and district attorney held a news conference urging the public to help them find Couch and his mother, Tonya. The international media also picked up the story.

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