'Affluenza' mom enters no plea at Texas arraignment

Reuters News
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Posted: Jan 07, 2016 2:51 PM

By Marice Richter

FORT WORTH, Texas (Reuters) - The mother of a Texas teenager, ridiculed for his "affluenza" defense in the killing of four people while he was driving drunk, did not enter a plea at her arraignment in a Fort Worth court on Friday on a charge of helping her son flee to Mexico after he was suspected of violating probation.

Tonya Couch, 48, could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted in Tarrant County on a third-degree felony charge of aiding her son Ethan, 18, after he was suspected of violating a deal that kept him out of prison.

A hearing will be held on Monday for a request by her lawyers to seek a reduction in the bond that has been set at $1 million. Her lawyers have said they want to see it set at about $15,000, local media reports said.

Couch, wearing a yellow jail jump suit, told the court she did not have a passport because it was not returned to her when she was deported from Mexico.

She arrived in Texas on Thursday from Los Angeles, where she had been held since being deported from Mexico at the end of December.

During Ethan Couch's trial for the 2013 accident, a psychologist testified that the teen, then 16, suffered from "affluenza," meaning he had lost the ability to recognize right from wrong after being spoiled by his wealthy family. The diagnosis, which is not recognized by the American Psychiatric Association, was widely ridiculed.

Ethan Couch was sentenced in Tarrant County to 10 years of drink- and drug-free probation, which critics saw as leniency because of his family's wealth.

Tonya Couch and her son left Texas after a video surfaced on social media in early December showing Ethan at an alcohol-fueled party. The video raised questions about whether he had violated his probation agreement, which was reached in juvenile court.

Ethan Couch is in a Mexican immigration detention facility while he fights deportation, which could take months. His mother did not formally apply to stay in Mexico.

Ethan Couch faces about four months in Texas custody if he is found to have violated the terms of his probation. Tarrant County prosecutors said they were looking at additional charges that could keep him in custody longer.

(Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Leslie Adler and Matthew Lewis)