FORT WORTH (Reuters) - A Texas judge, who received national criticism for sentencing a wealthy Texas teenager to probation after he killed four people while driving drunk, ordered him on Wednesday to start rehabilitation for substance abuse and behavior problems.
The case set off an emotional debate because a psychologist for the teenager said his family’s wealth impaired the youth’s ability to take responsibility for his actions, calling the affliction “affluenza.”
The condition is not recognized by the American Psychiatric Association as a diagnosis.
In December, juvenile court Judge Jean Boyd sentenced the 16-year-old to 10 years’ probation and ordered him to get therapy, a decision that led to a backlash among those who thought the family used its wealth to keep the teen out of jail.
Reagan Wynn, an attorney for the teenager, said the judge ordered his client to start rehabilitation. He would not disclose the location or the amount of time the teenager would spend there.
After the hearing that was closed to the public and media, Wynn praised Judge Boyd for “making an appropriate decision in a tragic case that was distorted by the media.”
Wynn said the youth suffers from anti-social behavior as well as drug and alcohol abuse.
Prosecutors have been asking the judge to place the teenager in a youth detention center.
Tarrant County Assistant District Attorney Richard Alpert told reporters that the teen showed no remorse during the two-hour proceedings. Alpert added he has little confidence the rehabilitation will reform the youth’s behavior.
At the time of the deadly crash in June 2013, the teenager had a blood alcohol count that was three times the legal limit for an adult, prosecutors said.
The teenager’s pickup truck slammed into a car broken down on the side of the road near Fort Worth, killing four people.
Those who died were Breanna Mitchell, whose car had broken down, Hollie and Shelby Boyles, who lived nearby and had come out to help, and youth minister Brian Jennings, who also had stopped to help.
Two people riding in the teen’s pickup truck were also severely injured in the crash. One of them was left paralyzed, according to prosecutors.
The families of the victims have launched civil suits against the teen’s parents, seeking millions of dollars in damages.
Eric Boyles, whose wife Hollie and daughter Shelby were killed by the teen, attended the hearing and told reporters the youth will go to a rehabilitation facility in Texas for about six to nine months.
“If he did not have the money to pay for defense attorneys or treatment, it all might have worked out differently,” Boyles said.
Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Mohammad Zargham and Ken Wills