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A look at the 'affluenza' teen case

7 years 2 months 4 weeks ago Friday, January 01 2016 Jan 1, 2016 January 01, 2016 12:00 PM January 01, 2016 in News
Source: Associated Press
By: Emily Schmall

FORT WORTH, Texas - A teen fugitive who's known for using an "affluenza" defense in a trial for a deadly drunken-driving wreck is being detained in a Mexico City immigration facility while his mother is jailed in Los Angeles after being deported from Mexico. Here's a look at what has happened so far and what could happen in coming days or weeks:


Tonya Couch and her 18-year-old son, Ethan, were taken into custody this week in Mexico, where authorities believe the pair fled to in November as Texas prosecutors investigated whether he had violated his probation.

Ethan Couch was driving drunk and speeding near Fort Worth in June 2013 when he crashed into a disabled SUV, killing four people and injuring several others, including passengers in his pickup truck. He pleaded guilty to four counts of intoxication manslaughter and two counts of intoxication assault causing serious bodily injury and was sentenced to 10 years' probation.

During the sentencing phase of his trial, a defense expert argued that Couch's wealthy parents had coddled him into a sense of irresponsibility - a condition the expert termed "affluenza." The condition is not recognized as a medical diagnosis by the American Psychiatric Association, and its invocation drew ridicule.

Texas prosecutors believe the mother and son fled the state after a video surfaced that appears to show Ethan Couch at a party where people were drinking. He then missed a mandatory Dec. 10 appointment with his probation officer. 

The mother and son were arrested Monday after using a phone to order pizza that was traced to a condominium complex in the resort city of Puerto Vallarta.



Ethan Couch won a delay in deportation on Wednesday, a ruling that could lead to a drawn-out court process if a Mexican judge decides Couch has grounds to challenge his deportation based on arguments that kicking him out of Mexico would violate his rights.

Such cases can take anywhere from two weeks to several months, depending on the priorities of the local courts and the actions of defense attorneys, said Richard Hunter, chief deputy for the U.S. Marshals Service in South Texas. 

Couch was transferred Thursday to an immigration detention center in one of Mexico City's poorest areas where he will likely spend weeks, if not months, as he appeals deportation.

U.S. Marshals brought Couch's mother through Los Angeles International Airport early Thursday after a flight from Mexico. She will remain jailed in Los Angeles until officers can take her to Texas, which likely won't happen until at least next week, Los Angeles District Attorney's Office spokeswoman Jane Robison said.

Couch, however, is scheduled to appear in court Tuesday, the Los Angeles Police Department told The Associated Press. 

Texas prosecutors have charged Tonya Couch with hindering apprehension of a felon. Her bond there was set at $1 million, Tarrant County District Attorney's Office spokeswoman Samantha Jordan said Thursday.

Her attorneys released a statement saying that though "the public may not like what she did, may not agree with what she did, or may have strong feelings against what she did," she had done nothing illegal and wanted to get back to Texas as soon as possible.



If Ethan Couch's appeal is unsuccessful, he will be deported back to Texas and be held in a county facility until a probation violation hearing Jan. 19.

Tarrant County District Attorney Sharen Wilson has said she plans to ask a judge to transfer the case to adult court, where Couch could get up to 120 days in an adult jail, followed by 10 years of probation. If he violates probation again, he could face up to 10 years in prison per death, Wilson said.

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