The tragedy that is affluenza could strike any rich kid

Contributing WriterDecember 30, 2013 

I have been an attorney for a lot of years. Not to brag, but at moments I actually believed that I had something going. That I had hit on a good, if not great, idea.

Other times the ideas would be floated to me by my clients. Many of these I didn’t really believe would work. Like the guy who assaulted a woman; he told me that I could get him acquitted by just telling the jury that he was a pimp and this behavior was somehow necessary to be a successful entrepreneur.

Sometimes the media would present something like suing McDonald’s over hot coffee getting spilled. Then there was the Twinkie defense popularized in the media. In that case the argument was the guy killed someone because he ate too many Twinkies and other junk food.

Well, the notion that I had heard or thought it all was totally destroyed by news recently. I now know that I am just an ant when it comes to really great ideas in defending cases.

The brilliance and chutzpah floored me.

OK, a 16-year-old goes to Walmart with friends and steals beer. He gets drunk (or drunker, and there is also a report that his system had Valium and THC as well), then speeds at 70 miles an hour in a 40 mph zone. He loses control and kills four people. So far, it sounds pretty horrible, but also kind of what we read in the news too often. So he goes to court.

This is our legal system which is established to make just and fair decisions. The system is personified by a woman with a blindfold over her eyes. She’ll be fair and unbiased.

Then the brilliant part comes in. His attorney hired an “expert” who established that the kid was a victim in that he was born to a wealthy family.

I know, I know. You’re thinking, “Say what?” You think the only victims were the people killed by him, but you are wrong.

That is what I thought, too. And that is where your and my teeny tiny minds just can’t grasp the braininess of this defense team’s argument. The prosecutor wanted 20 years for this young man. He got probation and no jail.

Now I’m going to explain this to you very slowly so that you can try and understand. He was rich. His mom and his dad raised him in a wealthy home. Well, that wasn’t his fault. He didn’t ask to be born rich. You can’t hold that against him. He was just unlucky.

Apparently this poor (excuse me, unfortunate) kid was having everything bought for him and had so much that he never had any actual consequences from his screw-ups. He was afflicted with a sense of entitlement and superiority. How could he ever know that what happens to other people would happen to him?

So he never learned accountability and responsibility, and that sometime your stupidity causes something to hit the fan. Or if something does hit the fan, your mommy and daddy bought you a tuxedo which protects you from the stuff coming from the fan.

So how are you supposed to learn? If this kid had been born poor in a broken home, raised by relatives, and had to fend for himself and spend time on the streets, then he could have learned about consequences so that he could actually get punished for killing people.

Instead of getting any time in jail, he is going to go to a treatment center in California. The cost is only $450,000 per year, and he’ll have to spend his time in the sun getting massages, riding horses, probably taking cooking lessons and seriously confronting/avoiding his issues.

Wow! Probation? Sweet! How does one get affluenza? Is it contagious? Can I buy it somewhere?

Next time I get stopped by a police officer, I’ll just act like Richie Rich, look down my nose at the officer, give him (or her) a condescending attitude, and with a slight English accent tell the officer my parents were rich and trained me to be like this, so “Just bugger off.”

And if you are unlucky enough to win the lottery, give me a call. Nothing you do from then on is your fault.

Scott Candoo, a Tacoma attorney, is one of five reader columnists whose work appears on these pages. He and his wife, Susan, live in the North End. Email him at

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