The mother of “affluenza” teen Ethan Couch returned to a north Texas courtroom Monday morning for a hearing where it was determined she will remain free on bond while she awaits trial on a federal money laundering charge.
Tonya Couch, 49, appeared in the Tarrant County court for a status check conducted by the probation department in connection with the money laundering charge, according to KXAS. No concerns arose over her remaining free on bond.
Authorities believe that last December she withdrew $30,000 from a personal bank account and then allegedly aided her son, Ethan, in fleeing the country after he purportedly violated the terms of his juvenile probation. Their disappearance triggered an international manhunt, although the pair were quickly located in Mexico and returned to Texas. The elder Couch also faces a third-degree felony charge of hindering the apprehension of a felon, Ethan.
The “affluenza” mom’s next court hearing is scheduled on January 9, virtually one year after Mexican authorities deported her back to the United States. Upon her return, her lawyers argued Couch was financially unable to afford the $1 million bond set. Presiding District Judge Wayne Salvant lowered her bail to $75,000 and remanded her into the custody of her older son, Ethan’s half-brother. Then, Couch was fitted with an electronic ankle bracelet and placed on house arrest but, by this summer, Salvant relaxed that order so she could find a job to support herself while awaiting trial on the two felony charges. Couch landed a job in a Fort Worth area honky tonk but court documents later revealed she was fired after one day “due to the intense media coverage of her case.”
In September, Couch’s attorneys filed a motion requesting reclassification to court-appointed status. It asked the taxpayers to fund Couch’s legal fees. They said Couch did not receive financial support from her ex-husband, Fred, Ethan’s father, and could no longer afford their services. Although Salvant did not rule on that motion, he set a tentative trial date for February 2017.
Son Ethan, now 19, currently serves a two year jail sentence for violating his probation. In 2013, then 16-years-old, he drove drunk and killed four people, seriously injuring others. The teen’s lawyers defended this reckless behavior saying Ethan was a victim of “affluenza,” an inability to distinguish right from wrong because of his coddled, affluent upbringing. A sympathetic juvenile judge sentenced him to a 10-year probation sentence, residential rehabilitation, and counseling. He received these services for more than a year. It turned out the taxpayers footed a portion of the $200,000 bill as court documents showed his parent’s were financially unable to pay the full amount.
In February, following his extradition from Mexico to Texas, Couch was quietly moved to adult jail for his safety. Then, in April, he turned 19 years-old and aged out of the juvenile system. His case transferred to the adult system as part of his adult probation.
Several months ago, Ethan Couch’s attorneys unsuccessfully filed a motion arguing the teen should be released from jail because Salvant, a criminal court judge, did not have jurisdiction over the case that originated in juvenile court and should be handled in civil court. In September, Couch’s attorneys then filed to have Salvant removed from the case. Administrative Judge David Evans denied the request.
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