The mother of the “affluenza teen,” Ethan Couch, is back from Mexico, but her son is not. Tonya Couch arrived at LAX in custody of the U.S. Marshal’s service and was then whisked away in an unmarked charger – her son, Ethan, nowhere in sight.
Chris Connelly of KERA North Texas has the details on the case. He says it’s not clear why Tonya was brought to LAX and not directly to Tarrant County, where she and Ethan live.
Ethan Couch was serving probation for intoxication and manslaughter of four people in 2013. After a video surfaced at a party allegedly showing him in violation of his probation terms, officials in Texas believe Ethan and his mom fled to Puerto Vallarta, where they were discovered. Reports say their use of a pizza-ordering app on a smartphone gave them away. A judge in Mexico has not yet released the 18-year-old Texan while his attorneys file paperwork in an attempt to block deportation.
The U.S. Marshal Service hasn’t said why they decided to bring Tonya back through Los Angeles, but Connelly says they tend to be mum on how they traffic fugitives around.
Tonya faces between two and 10 years sentence for a third-degree felony if charged and convicted for hindering the apprehension of a juvenile.
In the meantime, Ethan is still in Mexico. Connelly says it’s not certain how long Ethan will stay in Mexico.
“His attorneys filed a legal writ for him – it’s called a Writ of Amparo – it basically says he was unlawfully detained,” Connelly says. “A judge ordered his deportation delayed for at least three days. I’ve seen quotes in the papers saying as much a two weeks, even as much as two months, to sort out the legal questions around Ethan Couch before they even would be able to bring him back from Mexico.”
One of the questions surround his case is whether Ethan will be tried as a juvenile, as he’s in the system now, or as an adult. He turns 19 in April.
Another question is what the justice system can do to him for skipping town.
“The District Attorney here in Tarrant County has said that if he stays in the juvenile system until his 19th birthday, a judge could send him to a juvenile detention center,” Connelly says.
If the DA can switch Ethan to the adult system, a judge could send him to prison for up to 120 days, as a condition of his probation. Either way, Connelly says Ethan is going to spend four months either in a Juvenile detention center or behind bars. His probationary period is set for 8 years.
But some, especially the families of the drunk driving victims, think Ethan’s sentence is too light.
“You’re hearing outrage from the families of the victims of the people who died when he essentially ran his car into a crowd of people on the side of the road,” Connelly says. “You see a frustrated sheriff who says ‘Hey, my guys had to work the scene of these fatalities,’ so they take it pretty personally that not only did he get what’s deemed by many a pretty light sentence for killing four people, but now they have to chase him around.”
Regardless, the public is following the case, Connelly says. He’s spoken to people who say Ethan Couch has seemed to catch every break.