‘Affluenza’ Teen Now Wants a New Judge

The Associated Press

The attorneys for “affluenza” teen Ethan Couch filed a motion to remove the judge who sent their client to jail. This follows the legal team’s recent court filing to spring their client out of custody.

On Monday, attorneys Reagan Wynn and Scott Brown filed a motion to recuse state district Judge Wayne Salvant, who presides over Couch’s case. The lawyers asserted the court had no authority when Salvant sent Couch to jail. Situations like Couch’s are considered to be civil proceedings, according to state law, but Salvant is a criminal court judge, KTVT reported. This recusal motion stated any determination the court acted out of its jurisdiction could result in a civil claim by the teen. It contended the judge would have a financial interest in the outcome of such litigation, and the court’s impartiality and personal bias could be questioned.

In August, Wynn and Brown filed a motion arguing that authorities should release Couch from jail, claiming Salvant never had the proper authority over the case to rule on the matter, Breitbart Texas reported. The teen currently serves 720 days as part of his probation, time imposed by Salvant. It reflects 180 days for each of the four individuals Couch killed when driving drunk in June 2013.

In response to the latest motion filed by Couch’s lawyers, Salvant signed an order asking another presiding judge, Jerry Evans, of the Eighth Administrative Judicial Region, to determine if he should be removed from the case, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported. As of Tuesday, the copy of the order had not yet been received by Evans. Prosecutors did not comment on Monday’s motion since Salvant placed a gag order on all parties associated with the case, said KTVT.

Ethan Couch was 16-years-old when he caused a fatal car wreck where four died and others were seriously injured. His blood alcohol level was three times the legal limit for an adult and traces of Valium were found in his system. Wynn and Brown defended Couch in the subsequent high-profile trial where they claimed the minor was the victim of “affluenza,” an inability to distinguish right from wrong, the result of a coddled, affluent upbringing. A lenient juvenile judge sentenced Couch to a 10-year probation sentence plus rehab and counseling instead of the 20 years of prison time the prosecution sought.

Late last year, then 18-year-old Couch and his mother, Tonya, went missing after a party video surfaced online purportedly serving beer and capturing someone who looked like the teen. Consumption of alcoholic beverages was among his probation violations. Their disappearance sparked an international manhunt although authorities quickly found and detained them in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Officials deported Tonya Couch to Texas first. The “affluenza” teen initially put up an extradition fight from Mexico City, Breitbart Texas reported. He 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.

Salvant also presides over the case of Couch’s mother. Upon Tonya Couch’s return to Texas, the judge reduced her $1 million bail to $75,000. She then bonded out of jail and into the custody of her older son, Ethan’s half-brother. Salvant also relaxed the conditions of her 24/7 house arrest so she could find a job to support herself while she awaits trial on felony charges of money laundering and hindering the apprehension of a felon, her son Ethan. Weeks before the two vanished, the elder Couch allegedly withdrew $30,000 from a personal bank account. Presently, she works as a bartender in a honky tonk bar in Azle, northwest of Fort Worth.

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


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