The 18-year-old known as the “affluenza” teen, Ethan Couch, may be back in Texas as early as Thursday now that his attorney in Mexico dropped the injunction that blocked Couch’s deportation.
“I have people at the courthouse … waiting for notification that the appeal has formally been dropped,” said Fernando Benítez, the lawyer representing the teen while he remains in Mexico. According to Dallas ABC-TV affiliate WFAA, Benítez anticipated a judge would close the case Tuesday, clearing the way for Couch’s extradition back to Texas. He added that once the injunction is lifted, Couch will be deported in 24 to 48 hours.
Even though Benítez gave Couch several options to review, the teen decided to terminate his constitutional appeal Monday and instead, return to Texas to “face whatever charges he faces,” NBC DFW reported.
Up until this latest development, the teen fought extradition. In December, he and his mother, Tonya Couch, 48, were detained in Puerto Vallarta following an international manhunt for Couch after he missed a routine check-in with his probation officer. Tarrant County officials alleged that Tonya Couch helped her son flee the U.S. when a party video surfaced online purportedly serving alcohol and capturing someone who looked like Ethan Couch. Alcohol consumption was among his probation violations.
Couch is the North Texas teenager, who, in 2013, drove drunk, killing four people and wounding others in the Fort Worth area. A lenient juvenile court judge tried then 16-year-old Couch whose attorneys, Scott Brown and William Reagan Wynn, defended him in a high-profile trial, blaming “affluenza,” a so-called condition where the youth’s inability to distinguish right from wrong stemmed from over-indulgent parents and an affluent upbringing. Instead of jail time, he received 10 years of probation, rehab and counseling.
Earlier this month, authorities deported Tonya Couch back to Texas to face the third-degree felony charge of hindering an apprehension, although her $1 million bail was reduced to $75,000. She since bonded out of jail, is housebound and electronically monitored.
Following the elder Couch’s deportation, Mexican officials moved Couch to a Mexico City immigration holding facility where he remains, missing a previously scheduled Jan. 19, probation transfer hearing held at the Tarrant County Juvenile Court. Breitbart Texas reported his legal counsel, Brown and Wynn, argued that neither of Couch’s parents were formally notified in writing about the hearing, thus, protocol dictated that the judge call a recess to allow ample time to properly inform the parents about the hearing, reset for Feb. 19.
Couch’s attorneys told reporters they expected Couch would return to Texas sooner rather than later after the hearing postponement. Brown also said the teen may have been taken to Mexico against his will, something he indicated was being investigated, although the spokeswoman for the Tarrant County District Attorney’s office commented that even if the teen was forced to go to Mexico, it would not affect the prosecution’s efforts to transfer his case to the adult system at the time of his 19th birthday.
The Tarrant County D.A. felt placing Couch in a juvenile facility until his 19th birthday was insufficient punishment for alleged probation violations but, if the case transfers over to the adult court system, Couch could face up to 120 days in prison. In the adult system, he would serve out the remaining eight years on his 10 year probation sentence, still bound by the terms of the original juvenile court sentence; however, he could receive up to 40 years in prison if he violated probation again, which Breitbart Texas reported.
Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom.