Tonya Couch, the mother of fugitive “affluenza” teen Ethan Couch, was formally charged with allegedly hindering the apprehension of her son, yet her attorneys insist she did not do anything wrong, breaking no Texas laws. Breitbart Texas reported the charge, a third-degree felony, carries a 2-10 year prison sentence. Her bail was set at $1 million. The charge stems from Couch purportedly helping her son flee the country to Mexico.
Ethan Couch is the Texas teen granted leniency by a North Texas juvenile court for a 2013 drunk driving wreck in which he pleaded guilty to four counts of intoxication manslaughter and two counts of intoxication assault causing serious bodily injury. Instead of jail time, he serves a 10 year probation sentence. His defense attorneys claimed the teen, then 16, suffered from “affluenza” to explain irresponsible behavior as the result of his privileged upbringing.
Tonya Couch’s attorneys, Stephanie K. Patten and Steve Gordon, said their client is eager to have her day in court and did not break any Texas laws, according to KXAS 5 (NBC). They released a statement Thursday:
“Tonya is currently in the custody of California authorities in Los Angeles. She looks forward to being returned to Texas as quickly as possible. While the public may not like what she did, may not agree with what she did, or may have strong feelings against what she did, make no mistake — Tonya did not violate any law of the State of Texas and she is eager to have her day in court.”
On Tuesday, Mexican authorities deported Tonya Couch back to the United States where overnight she arrived at Los Angeles International Airport. U.S. Marshals Service spokesman Eugene Hwang told reporters that he could not reveal any details about her trip to California or say how long she might remain here, citing security concerns in transporting someone in custody. An LAPD fugitive task force picked her up around 1:30 a.m. and transported her to the Metropolitan Detention Center, according to Officer Norma Eisenman. Couch will stay in the downtown L.A. federal prison until Texas officials arrive to escort her back to Tarrant County where authorities expect to book her into jail. According to news reports, she may not return to Texas until early next week.
Ethan Couch remains in a Mexican jail. WFAA 8 (ABC) reported he was transported from a facility in Guadalajara to Mexico City on Wednesday. Earlier this week, mother and son filed a writ of amparo in a Mexican court through a Mexican attorney to block their deportation, which Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal Richard Hunter described in a Houston news conference as having a similar protection as the U.S. writ of habeas corpus.
Immigration authorities said they did not receive a judge’s injunction like the one that temporarily blocked the deportation of Ethan Couch. That ruling gives a judge three days to decide whether the “affluenza” teen has grounds to challenge extradition based on arguments that kicking him out of the country would violate his rights.
However, the Dallas ABC affiliate reported late Thursday night that hotel employees claimed they found a handgun in the room where the mother and son were staying in Mexico, asserting the firearm may have belonged to Ethan Couch. Despite speculation about the alleged ownership of the handgun, no official details have been released yet.
Tarrant County authorities believe that Ethan Couch fled to Mexico with his mother as prosecutors investigated whether he had violated his probation. A social media video of a teen party allegedly serving alcoholic beverages surfaced in early December and showed someone who looked like Couch. Breitbart Texas reported that among violations of his probation were drinking, driving or doing drugs. The manhunt for Ethan Couch began after he missed a check-in appointment with his probation officer. Tarrant County authorites worked closely with state, federal, and international officials to locate the teen and his mother. On Monday, Breitbart Texas’ Bob Price reported that Mexican authorities captured Tonya and Ethan in the resort city of Puerto Vallarta, located through a phone call ordering pizza.
Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom.