NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Saturday, December 19, 2015, 4:44 PM
When a Texas judge gave ‘affluenza’ teen Ethan Couch a slap on the wrist for a fatal drunk driving crash, it angered the loved ones of another man who got 20 years behind bars by the same judge for a remarkably similar crime.
Now that the reviled rich kid and his wealthy mom are nowhere to be found after he skipped a probation hearing, the family and friends of Eric Bradlee Miller are livid he is still locked up.
“Excuse my French but that’s bulls–t and now he’s on the run,” said longtime family friend Harold Willett.
“Then you got this punk a– kid, the similarities, tragic as they are. It was the same only different because Couch’s family has all that money,” Willett, 57, fumed.
Miller, now 28, was without means when he was 16-years-old and killed a man in a boozed-up wreck.
His case echoes Couch’s in many ways.
On the night of Feb. 13, 2004, Miller borrowed $ 10 from his grandfather, used it buy a bottle of vodka, stole a pickup truck and fatally struck 19-year-old father Philip Andress and fled, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported.
Couch killed four people on June 15, 2013 and paralyzed one when he slammed his truck into a car pulled over on the side of a country road while doped up on Valium and stolen booze.
The two Fort Worth area boys’ cases were both seen by juvenile court judge Jean Boyd and they both used the defense that their family backgrounds should let them off the hook.
But the difference in Boyd’s sentencing was huge: Miller, who came from a poor background and had paltry court-appointed legal defense, got 20-years in prison while Couch, who came from a multimillionaire family, got off with 10 years of probation and a stint at a costly rehabilitation center in California after his private attorneys argued that he was too rich to know right from wrong, a contradiction originally reported by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
“There’s always been an issue in the court system here. If you got money you got freedom,” Miller’s grandfather, 85-year-old Donald Chaffin told the Daily News.
“That’s the way it’s been since I can remember,” said Chaffin, who is looking for an attorney to appeal Miller’s case.
Miller was raised by Chaffin on a living scraped together with veteran disability benefits because Miller’s mother was a drug addict and his father was out of the picture.
“Somebody had to, he didn’t have anyone else to turn to,” he said.
Chaffin couldn’t afford an attorney when Miller was arrested so he was appointed a public defender named Richard Gladstone, the Star-Telegram reported.
But when Miller’s attorney argued that he should get a break because of his troubled upbringing, Tarrant County State Disctrict Judge Jean Boyd didn’t buy it.
“The court is aware you had a sad childhood, but you are fortunate to have a grandfather who is so committed and loves you,” Boyd said to Miller during sentencing, according to the Star-Telegram.
But nearly 10 years later, Boyd bought the argument that Couch had been given too many privileges to have a moral compass after his reckless fatal accident.
Boyd could not be reached for comment.
Miller was paroled in 2008 but went back to prison in 2011 for a traffic violation and for not reporting to his parole officer. He is up for probation again in 2017.
In the meantime, Chaffin is looking for an attorney to appeal his case.
“I’m trying to get Eric out of prison,” Chaffin said.
“I stay up every night thinking about it. They just teared him apart and we had an attorney who didn’t do anything,” Chaffin said.
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