FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — The Texas teenager who used an "affluenza" defense in a fatal drunken-driving wreck was transferred to an adult jail on Friday, a week after a judge initially refused to do so.
Ethan Couch, 18, was moved to the Tarrant County Jail from a juvenile detention center in Fort Worth, according to jail records. Couch had been at the juvenile facility since being deported last month from Mexico, where authorities believe he and his mother fled while prosecutors investigated whether he'd violated his probation in the 2013 drunken-driving case.
Tarrant County Sheriff Dee Anderson said Couch's case remains under the juvenile court's jurisdiction. Anderson said he felt more comfortable with Couch "in a more secure environment."
Anderson and prosecutors had pushed Judge Timothy Menikos last week to transfer Couch to an adult jail, but the judge sided with Couch's attorneys and agreed to hold him in the juvenile facility. The judge later changed his mind and met with Couch's attorneys on Thursday, district attorney spokeswoman Samantha Jordan said.
Jordan said she didn't know why Menikos changed course, and she didn't provide details of Thursday's meeting. A call to the judge's office rang unanswered Friday, and Couch's attorneys didn't return phone calls seeking comment. A hearing is scheduled for Feb. 19 to determine whether Couch's case will be moved from juvenile court to the adult system.
Couch was 16 — and had a blood-alcohol level three times the legal limit for adult drivers — when he swerved off a road near Fort Worth and hit a disabled car, killing its driver and three people helping her. Several other people were injured in the wreck.
During the sentencing phase of the juvenile court trial, a defense expert invoked the term "affluenza" when arguing that Couch's wealthy parents had coddled him into a sense of irresponsibility.
Couch was sentenced to probation, which included terms that barred him from drinking or leaving Tarrant County. He and his mother disappeared in December, after an online video appeared to show Couch at a party where people were drinking. They were apprehended in the Mexican resort city of Puerto Vallarta on Dec. 28, after a call for pizza delivery tipped off authorities to their whereabouts.