Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) announced they will deliver a signed petition to the juvenile court hearing held in Fort Worth on Tuesday where a judge will determine whether “affluenza” teen Ethan Couch’s case stays in juvenile court or gets transferred into the adult court system.
Last week, MADD launched #FightAffluenza, an online petition for which they sought 30,000 signatures demanding Couch’s case be moved from juvenile to adult court. The previously scheduled hearing will be held in juvenile court. According to MADD, they exceeded the 30,000 signatures within 24 hours, leading MADD to double their goal to 60,000 signatures by the time of court date where prosecutors will argue to move Couch’s case from juvenile to adult court.
Breitbart Texas reported that Tarrant County District Attorney Sharen Wilson said she would like to see Couch’s case moved from juvenile to adult court. She attested that potentially keeping Couch in a juvenile facility for fleeing the country until his 19th birthday in April “is not enough” punishment.
“Transferring Couch to adult court gives the criminal justice system the opportunity to hold him accountable by ensuring his probation extends beyond his 19th birthday in April 2016,” said MADD National President Colleen Sheehey-Church. Her 18-year-old son Dustin was killed by an underage drunk and drugged driver. “Couch is not a child. His actions are not that of a child, and everything possible must be done to hold him accountable and to ensure that Couch has no more victims,” she stated.
If the case moves to adult court, prosecutors will request that the judge sentence him to 120 days in prison for fleeing followed by serving out the remaining eight years left on his 10 year probation sentence. Additionally, if he violates the terms of his probation he could face up to 40 years in prison, 10 years for each life lost in the 2013 drunken driving accident.
Couch was 16-years-old when he killed four people and wounded others in a June 2013 drunk-driving wreck near Fort Worth. His defense attorneys claimed he was the victim of “affluenza,” an inability to distinguish right from wrong based on his affluent upbringing. Instead of jail time, a lenient judge, District Judge Jean Boyd, gave Couch a 10 year probation sentence. Boyd retired from the bench in December, 2014.
Before the transfer hearing, MADD plans to turn over to the signed petition to the prosecution. Ethan Couch, 18, will not attend the hearing as he remains in Mexico City fighting extradition back to Texas.
Tarrant County authorities believed that mother Tonya Couch, 48, aided her son in fleeing to Mexico. Previously, prosecutors were investigating whether he had violated his probation once a social media video surfaced in early December of a teen party allegedly serving alcoholic beverages and showed someone who looked like Couch. Among his probation violations were drinking alcohol, driving, or doing drugs.
The international manhunt for the Couches led to the resort town of Puerto Vallarta where they were found. Tarrant County officials charged Tonya Couch with hindering the apprehension of a felon, her son. On Jan. 11, Judge Wayne Salvant reduced her bail from $1 million to $75,000. After meeting bail, she was released from the Tarrant County Jail and into the custody of her older son Steven McWilliams. The judge ordered that Couch wear a GPS ankle monitor and only be allowed to leave home for doctor or attorney appointments.
Breitbart Texas reported that MADD National President Colleen Sheehey-Church issued a statement on Jan. 11 in which she also noted: “Four people were killed and several injured, and Couch continues to show no remorse and blatant disregard for the law.”
Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom.