‘Affluenza’ Teen’s Mom Arraigned in Texas

AP Photo
Rodger Mallison/Star-Telegram via AP

Friday morning, Tonya Couch, mother of “affluenza” teen Ethan Couch, was arraigned in a Fort Worth courtroom on the charge of hindering the apprehension of a felon, her son.

Couch, 48, appeared before State District Judge Wayne Salvant, who conducted the very brief arraignment. Couch entered the courtroom clad in a yellow jail jumpsuit. Salvant asked her if she understood the charges brought against her and explained some of the details of the complaint, including that she intended “to hinder the arrest, detention, adjudication or disposition of a child, Ethan Couch.”

Salvant said the complaint noted that Couch took action after Ethan “had been adjudicated for having engaged in illegal conduct that violated a penal law of a grade of felony.” The judge stated the complaint asserted Tonya Couch provided him with “means of avoiding arrest or affecting escape, by financing and transporting Ethan Couch and his flight from this jurisdiction and the court of the State of Texas.”

Couch is held on a $1 million bond. Breitbart Texas reported that late Thursday, Couch’s attorney, Stephanie Patten, filed a motion to have that bond amount reduced to $15,000, calling the $1 million bond “unreasonable” because it reflected six times the recommended bail for a third-degree felony in the Tarrant County Bond Schedule, according to the Dallas Morning News. Salvant did not rule on the bail reduction. That will be addressed on Monday afternoon at a previously scheduled hearing.

The attorney’s motion also noted that the bail amount was “excessive” under the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the Texas Constitution, and Texas laws, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported.

Salvant told Couch if she meets bail, she will be subject to a variety of conditions such as wearing a GPS ankle monitor and, if she has not already done so, the surrender her passport. The Dallas Morning News added that Patten’s filed motion stated Couch “personally promises to appear at all court appearances hereon and to comply” with all conditions of her bail.

Patten was not present at the arraignment. The judge said she was tied up in traffic. Previously, Breitbart Texas reported that Couch’s legal counsel released a statement insisting Couch broke no laws in Texas. It read: While the public may not like what she did, may not agree with what she did, or may have strong feelings against what she did, make no mistake — Tonya did not violate any law of the State of Texas and she is eager to have her day in court.”

After the proceeding, Tarrant County Sheriff Dee Anderson told reporters that Couch complained about jail conditions, saying it was too bright to sleep. According to WFAA 8 (ABC), Anderson said he told her, “it’s jail, not a resort.”

Authorities believe Couch and her 18-year-old son, Ethan Couch, dubbed the “affluenza” teen, fled Texas as prosecutors investigated whether Ethan Couch had violated his probation. A video surfaced online that showed someone who resembled him at a party where people appeared to drink alcohol. Mother and son were arrested in Puerta Vallarta, Mexico in late December.

On Thursday, officials took Couch to the Tarrant County Lon Evans Correction Center after she arrived at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport on a flight from Los Angeles. She was booked on the third-degree felony charge of hindering the apprehension of a felon and held on $1 million bail. Sheriff Dee Anderson told KDFW 4 (Fox) that this was the first time in his career he personally escorted a prisoner to jail to ensure everything “went well” in the process “with the eyes of the world upon us.” Anderson expressed the Sheriff’s Office main focus is in bringing back to Tarrant County, Ethan Couch, who remains in Mexico, fighting extradition.

Breitbart Texas reported that high-profile Mexican lawyer Fernando Benítez is fighting the teen’s extradition back to the U.S. Benítez filed a petition claiming Couch’s constitutional and civil rights may have been violated, highlighting that the teen’s U.S. crimes should have no bearing on Mexican officials or Mexican courts. He said that the U.S. State Department filed no formal extradition request for Couch, noting: “They want to get him for not having the proper migratory papers and have this executive decision.”

Couch, 18, serves a 10 year probation sentence after killing four people and wounding others in a June 2013 drunk-driving wreck near Fort Worth. His defense attorneys claimed that the teen, then 16-years-old, was the victim of “affluenza,” an inability to distinguish right from wrong based on his affluent upbringing. Instead of jail time, the lenient judge, who tried Couch as a juvenile, gave the teen a probationary sentence.

Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom.