‘Affluenza’ teen’s mother being sent to Texas to face indictment for fleeing to Mexico
The mother of a Texas teenager, derided for a defense of “affluenza” in his trial for killing four people while driving drunk, was to be transferred on Thursday from custody in Los Angeles to return to Texas to face an indictment, Texas media reported.
Tonya Couch, 48, could arrive as soon as Thursday in Tarrant County, Texas, where she has been charged with third-degree felony for helping her son, Ethan, 18, escape to Mexico, a crime that can bring up to 10 years in prison if she is convicted.
Officials from Los Angeles and Tarrant counties were not immediately available for comment.
A spokeswoman for the Tarrant County District Attorney said the office is aware of the reports but cannot confirm an arrival time.
Once she is back, she will be held on a bond of $1 million. Ethan Couch is in a Mexican immigration detention facility and fighting his deportation, Tarrant County officials said.
The two fled Texas shortly after a video surfaced in early December showing Ethan at an alcohol-laden party, likely in violation of the probation deal reached in juvenile court that kept him out of prison for killing four people with his pickup truck in 2013 when he was 16.
He faces about four months in Texas custody if he is found to have violated the probation deal. Tarrant County prosecutors said they are looking at additional charges that could put him behind bars for longer.
During his trial, a psychologist testified on Couch’s behalf that he was afflicted with “affluenza,” meaning he lost the ability to tell the difference between right and wrong after being showered with his family’s riches.
The diagnosis is not recognized by the American Psychiatric Association and was widely ridiculed.
A Mexican court has granted the teenager a stay against deportation that could delay his return by weeks or months.
Ethan, who has filed paperwork to stay in Mexico, was sentenced in Tarrant County to 10 years of drink- and drug-free probation, which critics saw as leniency because of his family’s wealth, which comes from a metal works business.
(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz and Marice Richter; Editing by Alistair Bell)