North Texas officials quietly transferred “affluenza” teen Ethan Couch, 18, from a Fort Worth juvenile detention facility to an adult jail in a surprise move on Friday. Tarrant County Sheriff Dee Anderson likened the situation to Couch having a “different landlord” because the case remains under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court system, for now.
Anderson spoke to reporters late Friday afternoon after Couch’s transfer from the Lynn W. Ross Juvenile Detention Center to the Lon Evans Corrections Center. He said the sheriff’s department was given very short notice that juvenile authorities would arrive with the teen at the downtown Fort Worth adult corrections center.
The sheriff said a hearing took place in juvenile court Friday morning. Tarrant County juvenile court Judge Timothy Menikos issued a “revised order of detention,” in a followup from the Jan. 29 hearing when Menikos ordered Couch to a juvenile facility. The judge had the option to keep him there or move him to the adult jail.
Anderson told news media the teen’s booking went “smoothly,” describing Couch’s demeanor as compliant and soft-spoken, making no requests and voicing no concerns about what was happening.
“I tried to explain to him kind of what the next 24-48 hours were going to entail for him and he said he understood,” said Anderson, adding that Couch was agreeable.
— Dee Anderson (@SheriffAnderson) February 5, 2016
They placed Couch in a single cell. Anderson said he told the teen, “What we are doing here is not because we think you are a threat to us.”
The sheriff emphasized moving Couch to the adult facility was done also for the teen’s safety. Anderson cited the concern that someone else confined in the jail system who has access to Couch might try to hurt him. He said “steps will be taken to protect him” as they do with all “high-profile” inmates.
Still, Anderson maintained that the only change made to Couch’s “status” was to his “housing status.” The teen is legally an adult under juvenile probation. “He will be held until a further hearing is held to determine his status,” said Anderson. He defined Couch’s new life in the adult corrections facility as “routine” and “regimented.”
Recently, Couch dropped his extradition fight from Mexico, resulting in his return to Texas on Jan. 28. In December, the teen missed a routine probation appointment after an online party video surfaced that appeared to serve alcohol and showed someone who looked like Couch. Authorities believe his mother, Tonya, 48, helped him flee the United States. Consuming alcohol is a violation of his 10-year probation sentence for the 2013 drunk driving wreck that killed four people and injured others. A lenient juvenile judge tried then 16-year-old Couch on an “affluenza” defense that blamed his drunk driving accident on an inability to distinguish right from wrong because of over-indulgent parents and an affluent upbringing. Instead of jail time, he received probation, rehab and counseling.
Tarrant county prosecutors and other officials, including Anderson, stated before they want to see the case moved to the adult court system on Couch’s 19th birthday on Apr. 11 to hold him more accountable. Couch’s next hearing on Feb. 12 remains under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court. A subsequent Feb. 19 transfer hearing will determine if Couch’s case remains in juvenile court or gets transfered to the adult court system.
Breitbart Texas reported if the case moves to the adult court system, Couch could face much stiffer penalties for probation violations while serving out the remaining eight years of his probation sentence.
Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom.