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July 31, 2014

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‘Affluenza’ teen’s family won’t pay full rehab fee

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AP Photo/KDFW-FOX 4

In this December 2013 image from video, Ethan Couch is seen during his court hearing in Fort Worth, Texas.

FORT WORTH, Texas — The family of a Texas teenager sentenced to probation after killing four people in a drunken-driving wreck will pay for just a fraction of his court-ordered treatment, a court official testified Friday.

Ethan Couch's parents will be charged $1,170 a month for his treatment at the North Texas State Hospital in rural Vernon. That amount would cover less than two days of treatment, which costs $715 a day, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported.

Couch's case drew national attention due in large part to his defense's argument that his wealthy parents had coddled him into a sense of irresponsibility — a condition that a defense expert called "affluenza."

Couch, 17, killed four people last year when his vehicle rammed into a crowd of people trying to help the driver of a disabled vehicle south of Fort Worth. Investigators said he was driving his family company's pickup truck while drunk and with traces of Valium in his system.

Couch admitted to causing the wreck and received 10 years' probation from State District Judge Jean Boyd rather than prison time, as prosecutors and Couch's victims wanted. Several of his victims have since sued the Couch family, with most of them reaching confidential settlements.

Debbie Spoonts, placement supervisor for Tarrant County Juvenile Services, said the facility decided what Fred and Tonya Couch would pay based on a sliding scale.

A message from The Associated Press seeking comment from Spoonts on the facility's payment policy was not immediately returned Friday.

The teen's family previously had offered to pay for Couch to go to a $450,000-a-year rehabilitation center near Newport Beach, Calif. Boyd rejected that request.

Ethan Couch's attorney, Reagan Wynn, and Fred and Tonya Couch did not speak to the media after the hearing.

Lance Evans, the attorney for Couch's parents, said after the hearing that the family "respects the decision of the facility and of the court, and will honor the payment system that the court has put in place."

Kevin McConnell, the father of a child who was injured in the wreck, declined to comment after the hearing on whether the amount the Couches will pay is fair.

"That's not my call," McConnell said. "We have a criminal justice system and a legal system. That's not my call to make."

McConnell's family is suing the Couches. He said they will not accept a settlement and instead want a jury trial.

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