Juvenile Justice

'Poor little rich boy,' 16, gets 10-year probation in DUI crash that killed 4 people

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A 16-year-old driver has been sentenced to 10 years of probation by a Texas juvenile court judge after pleading guilty last week to drunken driving and intoxication manslaughter concerning a June chain-reaction accident he caused that killed four people.

The youth, who is not identified because he is a juvenile, also pleaded guilty to two counts of intoxication assault, concerning two passengers riding in the bed of his pickup who were critically injured (one is paralyzed and communicates by blinking). The defendant will be held in detention in Tarrant County while a potential treatment program is arranged for him, the Star-Telegram reports. His blood-alcohol level after the crash was 0.24 percent, three times the legal limit for an adult.

In a controversial Tuesday ruling, State District Judge Jean Boyd rejected a call by state prosecutors for a 20-year prison term and said it would be better for the teen to receive expensive residential treatment in California that his wealthy parents have agreed to pay for. The program, which can cost $450,000 annually, is intended to address what a psychologist described as a family situation in which the teen had money and material possessions but little parental guidance, stunting his emotional growth, the newspaper recounts.

A Dallas Morning News Opinion Blog post derided the judge’s “poor little rich boy” stance and questioned, as other critics have also done, why the standard of justice seemingly may be different for those with money.

Assistant district attorney Richard Alpert prosecuted the case along with Riley Shaw, and they said they are very disappointed. He argued in closing that the teen, if he remains protected by his family’s wealth, could be involved in another tragedy, the Star-Telegram reports.

However, attorney Scott Brown, who represented the defendant along with Reagan Wynn, said his client could have been out in two years if he had gotten a 20-year prison term. The judge “fashioned a sentence that could have him under the thumb of the justice system for the next 10 years,” Brown said.

If he violates his probation, the teen could be required to serve out his 10-year prison term.

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