Monday, October 19, 2015

THE AFFLUENZA DEFENSE


Did you happen to see the show “48 Hours” Saturday night? It was about the sixteen year old boy who drove drunk with a truck full of teenagers and killed four people -- and then was given probation. If you didn’t see the show, the recap is that his wealthy parents gave him his own house where he lived by himself, got himself off to school, and did a lot of drinking/partying and drugs with friends.

What came out was that his parents had pretty much bought his way out of trouble starting from when they first let him drive a truck at age 12. He was never told no. His mom couldn’t remember the last time she’d disciplined him. His friends said she knew about the drinking and parties but never tried to prevent them.

After the horrific accident, when the boy was accused on five different charges, his parents settled out of court, and it went to the judge for sentencing. She gave him probation. The people in town were naturally horrified. The sentiment was that the boy had never been held responsible for anything and now he was getting off again.  That judge, by the way, retired the following year. She couldn’t take the criticism thrown at her.

I don’t know how you view the case, but being a writer, I’m accustomed to jumping into other people’s heads to see things from their point of view. As a former teacher, I also have a background in psychology, and I remember from my class on gang psychology, young people who are “abandoned” by their parents, whether from neglect, abuse, or being orphaned, often are so lonely – soul-deep lonely – that they turn to drugs, alcohol, and/or a new family, i.e. gangs, to fill that void in their lives. 

So although part of me saw this young man as a spoiled brat used to getting his own way and buying his way out of trouble, the other part of me saw an abandoned child. His parents bought a place for him to live out of their lives. What kind of message does that boy receive? It’s not “Here, honey, this is to pamper you.”  It’s “Go away and leave us in peace. We don’t care what you do.” 

Who do you punish in a case like this? The boy, who’s basically been punished all his life for being the son of people who didn’t seem to care about him? Or the parents, who didn’t have a clue what they were doing to him? 

The obvious victims, of course, are the families who lost loved ones in the crash. But  in my writer’s eyes, this spoiled young man is a victim, too.


What would your decision have been if you’d been the judge?

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

The story was also on "20/20" on Friday night and, although I really didn't want to watch it, I had it on for the noise and heard much of the description (didn't hear that his parents had essentially abandoned him by giving him a house of his own). I agree that he was emotionally abused/abandoned, but probation still gave him the wrong message. You grow up when you are made accountable for your actions. I can remember judges in some of my cases (a shoplifting one in particular) who asked my clients how many times they had done the same thing and not been caught. Opened the clients eyes a bit. Cordella

Anonymous said...

Oops, should have been "clients' eyes."

Gram said...

Abused/abandoned aside - he needs to take responsibility for his actions as we all do,. and we all have problems of one sort or another - no one is unscathed no matter how it looks from the outside.

Kate Collins said...

I absolutely agree with you, Cordella. We need to be held accountable from a young age. Children should understand that actions cause consequences. Sad that this young person learned that Daddy made the consequences go away. If that's what you've always been taught, that's what you learn.

Kate Collins said...

I agree! He AND his parents need to take responsibility. So far, no apologies.

Anonymous said...

Whatever the view of this boy, my common sense says he needs to be accountable for his actions and he needs community too. Many programs are overwhelmed with needs today and I have no idea what would be available. That said, more than probation is needed. My thoughts turn to community service and some kind of home where he would be responsible for himself to others and responsible for others. I believe everyone wants to belong and feel useful/needed. In this case, I don't know what would be appropriate. Zena

Diane LaBrie Leverson said...

I think that boy should have been given some kind of sentence and given help of some kind. I think the parents should have been put in jail. There must be some way they pay for what they have done to this boy. No matter what, this boy will have a lot of problems all his life. Why should the parents just be able to write him off?

As for the victims families, no amount of money can give them peace.

Not really said...

All 3 need to be held accountable. Sadly in todays society no one is responsible for anything. It is always someone else's fault. That is why things are in the sorry state they are. AFFLUENZA DEFENSE? Been a problem for decades, centuries actually. Just more recognized today. A man in his 40's raped a 3 yr old. He walked. A man in his late 20's beat a 2 yr old within an inch of her life. He walked. While the 19 yr old behind him got 4 months because of his first speeding ticket. A 9 yr old ran away from home because her parents found out she was drinking, smoking, and sexually active and they grounded her. Despite all they could do no trace for 8 yrs. Then they got a call from the California Women's Prison in Chino (I think). After 3 years of careful undercover work by the police department she was arrested for prostitution, being a madam and for selling drugs. Her mother's reaction. We have got to get her out of their before she ruins our reputation. $26,000 later, all the records of the police, court, and prison were expunged. And that is nothing compared to some of the other things that have happened. Sadly our society has become increasingly "Me" "Me" "Me" and nothing else and it has been escalating with each generation. Especially notable since the Great War. Parental neglect and abuse is at an all time high. bullies are worshiped. You stand up for yourself you are in the wrong. The rick get off, diversion, probation while the poor are victimized by the legal system which has lost it's moral compass. Justice is a thing of the past and has been for decades. Had a rich neighbor with 5 kids. They were verbally, emotionally, physically, sexually abused. Mom would fix a meal put it on the table and the kids would grab a handful of whatever when they wanted. Mashed potatoes, chicken bones , grease covered the furnishings. Which were replaced every 6 months. New expensive. No matter. Parents could care less. Their family, the neighbors, the Avon lady, postman, the local pastor all complained to CPS. Nothing was done. Why? They had money and position. Where a learning disabled couple with a 2 year old had their daughter taken because a woman saw a red mark on the side of the childs face. The doctor told CPS it was a birthmark and STILL the parents had to go to court to get their daughter back. CPS worker argued that the parents were handicapped and should not be allowed to have kids. The judge asked "House clean?" Yes. "Bills paid on time?" Yes. "Child clean and cared for?" Yes. "What do the neighbors say" "They are a happy loving family. "Then why did you take the child" They are handicapped they shouldn't be allowed. He hit the roof. But it does show. If you have position and money. You can do anything you want with almost NO consequences. Our society has become an entitled society. The kids and many adults are lonely, resentful, hurting. It is really said and has been getting worse in leaps and bounds since the Great War. Della. deepotter@peoplepc.com

Andrea Stoeckel said...

Do NOT get me started on the "Affluenza defense" because it ranks right up there with the "twinkie defense" and the "video games defense" and the Lamar Odum "I wanted to get a break so I spent all that money and almost died...and now...I'm going to Disney World" reasoning. Every single person that is put on trial in this country needs to take responsibility for their actions, and just do the penance! Why is it that we can't just own up? That we must find a reason outside ourselves? Is thus what America has come to:" What,Me Worry?" Utterly ridiculous!

Kate Collins said...

Rare is the individual in court who says, "I did wrong and I deserve to be held accountable."

Patsy from Illinois said...

How horrible this is. My dad was warden at the Old Prison in Joliet, Illinois in the 1950's and 1960's and I grew up inside the walls where we lived. I was around inmates since before I could remember and got the inside info. Most of the inmates were from fatherless homes and sometimes motherless too. But almost without exception, they said they didn't do the crime even though there had been witnesses and they were caught at the scene. Always an excuse. And if you don't have parents to hold you responsible for your actions, you lie, cheat, steal or worse and expect to get away with it. And that is what happened here. This young man will continue to wreak havoc until he is held responsible. Now I am a recover support specialist at a human resource center and I hear about someone using drugs or alcohol and they use that as an excuse. Parents continue to be disconnected or absent. Doesn't matter. You are responsible for what you do. I don't know how it fix it. Wish I did.

sp murphy said...

This is upsetting on many counts. And as much as these rich kids exasperate and anger they're also victimized by their parent's selfishness. They will grow up to be adults who aren't able to take responsibility for anything and will thus, be unfit to run their own lives. My friend was a nanny for such a family and the teenage children did not even know how to use the stove to make tea. So what you get is privileged kids with zero life-skills and stunted emotions. Sad.

Gram said...

Oh yes!!

John P. said...

Too many people think that money can fix anything. In my opinion all of the people involved in the "out of court" settlement should be taken to account also. Lives were lost and money cannot make up for that. This case should have gone to trial with the parents listed as defendants along with the kid and all should have received Jail / Prison Time. Somewhere along the line, not only does the kid need to be told NO, but his parents also - NO Your Money Can't buy your way out of this and you will all have to face the consequences of your actions.

Maggie Sefton said...

It is said----the Universe will tolerate a situation of imbalance just so long before forces are set in motion to counterbalance it. It will be interesting to see how this truth manifests in this young man's life. All of us have to take responsibility for our actions. I just hope he doesn't kill a young mother with a car full of kids the next time. In the mid to late 1800s, a party of townsmen would have grabbed him from his house one night and hung him from the tallest tree. Old Style justice.

Rachelle21 said...

I wonder if he would have been helped more by having to do community service and to get medical help also. At least he would have had to do something as a consequence of his actions.

Kate Collins said...

That is indeed sad.

Kate Collins said...

You said it well.

Kate Collins said...

Let's all pray that he learned his lesson -- even if it's through embarrassment on TV -- and doesn't kill anyone again.

Kate Collins said...

Apparently he's receiving drug rehab as part of probation, but community service would have been good. Also visiting the morgue to see what death looks like.

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