‘Affluenza’ Teen Wants Consequences Erased

Photo: Mexico's Jalisco state prosecutorís office via AP

The attorneys for “affluenza” teen Ethan Couch filed a motion that argues authorities should release Couch from jail on a technicality.

The Couch legal team claims the presiding judge never had proper jurisdiction over the case to rule on on the matter. If granted, it will erase the consequences placed on Couch ordered by the court.

In the  filing, Couch’s lawyers contend the teen was improperly sent to adult criminal court, even though he is of legal age. WFAA reported, citing the motion which called juvenile proceedings “civil actions, not criminal cases,” that the case should be handled in civil court because it originated juvenile court. Counsel representing Couch say their request is based on their interpretation of state laws and the Texas Constitution. They did not believe the sometimes narrow exception that permits a transfer from juvenile to criminal court applies in this case.

KTVT reported situations like Couch’s are considered to be civil proceedings, according to state law, but the judge involved, Wayne Salvant, is a Tarrant County Criminal Court Judge.

If the motion is granted, all orders by Salvant, including Couch’s jail term would be thrown out. The motion explains: “Because this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over this matter, this Court has no authority to act whatsoever, and any orders — including the imposition of any and all conditions of probation — previously entered by this Court in this matter are null and void,” according to the WFAA report.

Presently, Couch serves just under two years in adult jail, ordered by Salvant, for the four individuals he killed when driving drunk in June 2013, Breitbart Texas reported. Couch was 16-years-old when he caused the tragic wreck near Fort Worth. His blood alcohol level was three times the legal limit for an adult. Traces of Valium were also found in his system.

At the high-profile trial, his legal defense team claimed then minor Couch was the victim of “affluenza,” an inability to distinguish right from wrong based on his “affluent” upbringing. Instead of jail time, a lenient juvenile judge gave him a 10-year probation sentence, residential rehab, and counseling.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported Couch received these services for more than a year and they totaled around $200,000. The taxpayers footed most of the bill. Court documents revealed Couch’s parents were “financially unable to pay” for the full amount of their son’s treatment.

Late last year, then 18-year-old teen and mother, Tonya, went missing, after a party video surfaced online purportedly serving beer and capturing someone who looked like Ethan Couch. Consumption of alcoholic beverages was among his probation violations.

Their disappearance sparked an international manhunt and both were soon thereafter found and detained in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Authorities deported Tonya Couch to Texas first. Salvant, also the presiding judging in her case, lowered her $1 million bail to $75,000. She bonded out of jail and into the custody of her older son, Ethan’s half-brother, Steven McWilliams. Salvant since relaxed her 24-hour-a-day house arrest terms, allowing her to work and support herself.

Breitbart Texas reported she is now bartending in a honky tonk bar northwest of Fort Worth. “Affluenza” mom awaits trial on felony charges of money laundering and hindering the apprehension of a felon, her son Ethan. Weeks before they vanished Tonya, allegedly withdrew $30,000 from a personal bank account.

Ethan Couch initially put up an extradition fight from Mexico City but later dropped it and returned to the Lone Star State. His case transferred automatically from the juvenile to the adult court system on his 19th birthday in April.

Follow Merrill Hope, a member of the original Breitbart Texas team, on Twitter.


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