‘Affluenza’ Mom Wants Taxpayers to Pay Her Legal Fees

Deadly Wreck Affluenza
AP Pool Photo: David Kent/Star-Telegram
Fort Worth, TX

The mother of “affluenza” teen Ethan Couch appeared with one of her attorneys in a Fort Worth courtroom briefly on September 19 to ask that taxpayers pay her legal fees.

According to the motion filed by lawyers Stephanie Patten and Steve Gordon, Couch can no longer afford their services, the Fort Worth Star Telegram reported. She does not receive financial support from her ex-husband. Additionally, the motion asserted the state unlawfully seized $6,500 from Couch’s checking account.

In August, Judge Wayne Salvant, who presides over the case, relaxed the conditions of Couch’s 24/7 house arrest so she could find a job to support herself while awaiting trial on third-degree felony charges of money laundering and hindering the apprehension of a felon, her son Ethan.

Breitbart Texas reported Couch, 49, landed a job tending bar this summer. Azle saloon owner Darrell Collins hired her after she had trouble finding employment. He believed everyone deserved a second chance. However, on Monday, court documents showed Couch was fired after one day “due to the intense media coverage of her case,” according to the Fort Worth newspaper.

Salvant did not rule on the motion to reclassify Couch’s counsel to court-appointed status Monday. He only asked Patten and case prosecutor Tiffany Burks to try to be ready for trial and set a tentative February 2017 date. Patten did not speak to reporters after the hearing since Salvant placed a gag order on all involved in the case.

The reality of an indigent Tonya Couch is a far cry from the “affluenza” mystique surrounding son Ethan, who, in 2013, was a 16-year-old and drove drunk, killing four people and seriously injuring others. Ethan’s lawyers defended his reckless behavior saying the teen was a victim of “affluenza,” an inability to distinguish right from wrong because of a coddled, affluent upbringing.

In a subsequent high-profile trial, prosecutors sought 20 years of prison for the teen. Instead, a sympathetic juvenile judge sentenced Ethan to a 10-year probation sentence plus residential rehab and counseling, services which he received for more than a year and totaled around $200,000. It turned out taxpayers footed part of the bill. Court documents revealed Couch’s parents were “financially unable to pay” the full amount of their son’s treatment, the Star-Telegram reported.

Last December, authorities believed Ethan violated the terms of his probation and Tonya allegedly assisted him in fleeing the country. Their disappearance triggered an international manhunt, although the pair were quickly located in Mexico and returned to Texas. Weeks before they vanished, Tonya Couch purportedly withdrew $30,000 from a personal bank account. When she returned, her lawyers argued Couch was financially unable to afford the original $1 million bond. Salvant lowered her bail to $75,000 and remanded her into the custody of her older son, Ethan’s half-brother.

Ethan, now 19, currently serves a 720 day jail sentence for violating his probation, time imposed by Salvant. In recent weeks, his attorneys filed a motion arguing the teen should be released from jail because Salvant, a criminal court judge, did not have jurisdiction over a case that originated in juvenile court and should be handled in civil court. Couch’s attorneys then filed to have Salvant removed from the case.

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


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