Texas Justice: ‘Affluenza’ Teen Remains in Juvenile Custody Temporarily

Affluenza teen
File Photo: Instituto Nacional de Migracion, INM via AP

A Texas juvenile judge ordered “affluenza” teen Ethan Couch to remain in juvenile custody, at least, temporarily.

On Friday morning, Jan. 29, Tarrant County Juvenile Judge Timothy Menikos decided to keep Couch, 18, in a juvenile detention facility until his rescheduled Feb. 19 transfer hearing. That hearing will decide if the case stays in the juvenile court or moves to the adult court. If the case transfers to the adult system, Couch could face much stiffer consequences for probation violations while serving out the remaining eight years on his 10 year probation sentence, Breitbart Texas reported.

The judge may still consider moving Couch to adult jail, which the prosecution requested Friday. Tarrant County officials have expressed they want to see the case moved on the teen’s 19th birthday to hold him more accountable.

After the hearing, Couch’s attorney Scott Brown told reporters he was hopeful that his client will complete his probation, although he acknowledged that Couch “is concerned about what the future holds for him.”

Neither of Couch’s parents were present in the courtroom today, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The teen entered the courtroom Friday wearing tan colored prison scrubs, Dallas news radio KRLD 1080 news tweeted:

On Thursday, Couch’s attorneys said they expect the case to be moved to the adult court in February and were optimistic that the “affluenza” teen would comply with the court’s orders to complete his term of probation. Couch arrived at DFW International Airport on an AeroMexico flight late Thursday morning.  Tarrant County sheriff’s deputies then escorted him to the juvenile detention facility in the Fort Worth area where he spent the night.

Victims’ family members arrived at the juvenile court for Couch’s detention hearing Friday as did Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). Beforehand, MADD President Colleen Sheehey-Church spoke briefly to reporters outside the courthouse saying that if the court released Couch on bond it would be an insult to all of the law enforcement officers who worked so hard to bring him back to Texas. “We do not want to see Ethan Couch released from detention today,” said Sheehey-Church.

On Jan. 19, MADD launched an online #FightAffluenza petition to support Couch’s case getting transferred to the adult court. Within 24 hours, they reached their 30,000 goal and then sought to double the number of signatures on the petition. Currently, nearly 49,000 people have signed the petition. Sheehey-Church’s son was killed by an underage drunk and drugged driver. Previously, she said: “Couch is not a child. His actions are not of a child, and everything possible must be done to hold him accountable and to ensure that Couch has no more victims.”

Couch, known for his “affluenza” defense in the fatal 2013 drunk driving accident that killed four people and injured others, was 16-years-old when a lenient juvenile court judge tried him on a defense that blamed the tragic accident on the so-called “affluenza” condition where the youth’s inability to distinguish right from wrong stemmed from having over-indulgent parents and an affluent upbringing. Instead of jail time, he received 10 years of probation, rehab and counseling.

Until earlier this week, Couch fought his extradition back to Texas through a high-profile attorney in Mexico. Local authorities believed that Couch’s mother, Tonya, 48, helped him flee the U.S. after a party video surfaced online purportedly serving alcohol and capturing someone who looked like Ethan Couch. Mexican authorities arrested mother and son in December when they were located in Puerto Vallarta. Earlier in January, authorities deported Tonya Couch back to Texas to face a third-degree felony charge of hindering an apprehension. She faced Judge Wayne Salvant, who lowered her $1 million bail to $75,000. She since bonded out of jail, must wear a GPS ankle bracelet, and remains housebound in the custody of her older son, Breitbart Texas reported.

Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom.