The father of “affluenza” teen Ethan Couch was found guilty of falsely identifying himself as a police officer in a trial that lasted a day and a half.
Wednesday, a six-person jury deliberated for an hour and a half in the Tarrant County criminal court before convicting Fred Couch, 51, on a charge that stemmed back to when he falsely identified as a suburban Fort Worth police officer in 2014.
On the first day of testimony, Tuesday, Couch pleaded not guilty to the charge. However, the jury viewed police dashcam video that revealed Couch told North Richland Hills officers, responding to an incident in July, 2014, that he was a reserve police officer in Lakeside, located in northwest Tarrant County, the Fort Worth Star Telegram reported.
During Wednesday’s closing arguments, Scott Brown, Couch’s attorney, told the jury Couch was “trying to help his community” during the commotion two years ago. The Fort Worth newspaper noted Couch carried a badge that read “search and rescue” and “Lakeside police” on it. Brown said Couch never asserted any authority with it. Reportedly, Couch belonged to the Lakeside search and rescue team, a volunteer group that did not include police or reserve officers. Couch was charged with false identification of a police officer which is a Class B misdemeanor and not the same as impersonating a police officer, according to the Texas Penal Code, Chapter 37.
Brown also suggested Couch may have been a target in the investigation because his name was in the news, said the Star-Telegram. However, prosecutor Lloyd Whelchel called the case simple. When asked if he was a reserve police officer, Couch said “yes.”
This member of the Couch family will not spend any time behind bars, though. The court sentenced him to one year of probation and 100 hours of community service. KTVT reported if he violates the conditions of the probation, he will have to serve four months in jail.
The “affluenza” dad is also the ex-husband of “affluenza” mom Tonya Couch, 49. Her most recent Tarrant County court appearance was in late November. A judge allowed her to remain free on bond while she awaits trial on one count of federal money laundering, Breitbart Texas reported.
Authorities believe she withdrew $30,000 from a personal bank account and then aided her son, Ethan, in fleeing the country after he purportedly violated his juvenile probation. Their disappearance last December triggered an international manhunt, although the pair were quickly located in Puerta Vallarta and returned to Texas. As a result, Tonya Couch also faces a third-degree felony charge of hindering the apprehension of a felon, her son Ethan.
Following his extradition from Mexico, Ethan was quietly moved by Tarrant County authorities to adult jail for his safety. In April, he turned 19 and aged out of the juvenile system. His case transferred to the adult system. Fred Couch attended Ethan’s transfer hearing from juvenile to adult court. The elder Couch again surfaced in the courtroom at a September hearing where attorneys Brown and Reagan Wynn argued the teen was wrongfully incarcerated. That effort failed. Currently, Ethan is about eight months into serving a two year jail sentence for violating his probation.
In 2013, Ethan, then 16, drove drunk and caused a wreck that killed four people and injured others. In the subsequent high-profile trial, Brown and Wynn represented Ethan with an “affluenza” defense, attributing the minor’s reckless behavior to a coddled, affluent upbringing that left him unable to distinguish right from wrong. A juvenile judge sentenced the teen to 10 years of probation.
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