A Tarrant County jury on Wednesday found the father of “affluenza” teen Ethan Couch guilty of a misdemeanor charge of false identification as a peace officer in a 2014 case that involved the North Richland Hills police.
Fred Couch, 51, was sentenced to 120 days in jail and 100 hours of community service but was given a year’s probation instead of serving jail time, according to Tarrant County court records.
Couch had pleaded not guilty to the charge Tuesday, the first day of testimony in his trial.
The jury of four men and two women deliberated an hour and a half before reaching their decision in County Criminal Court No. 4.
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In closing arguments Wednesday morning, defense attorney Scott Brown of Fort Worth told the jury that Couch, who carried a badge with the words “search and rescue” and “Lakeside police” on it, never asserted authority with it. Couch was a member of Lakeside’s search-and-rescue team, a volunteer group that did not include police or reserve officers.
“He was trying to help his community,” Brown said. “How is that being above the law?”
Brown added that Couch may have been a target of the investigation because his name had been in the news.
“A detective and a Texas Ranger went to arrest someone for a misdemeanor,” Brown said.
But prosecutor Lloyd Whelchel said the case was simple, noting that Couch was asked if he was a reserve police officer and said, “Yes.”
“For some reason, he thought he was entitled,” Whelchel said in his closing argument. “He wasn’t.”
In July 2014, Couch told North Richland Hills officers who were responding to a disturbance that he was a reserve police officer in Lakeside in northwest Tarrant County. Officers found that he had a badge.
In a dashcam video shown to jurors, Couch told officers that he was a reserve officer.
Couch is the father of Ethan Couch, who was driving drunk in June 2013 and caused a crash in the 1500 block of Burleson Retta Road in south Tarrant County, killing four people.
A psychologist gave an opinion at trial that Ethan Couch had “affluenza,” meaning he didn’t know right from wrong because of his wealthy upbringing.