By Marice Richter
FORT WORTH, Texas (Reuters) - A Fort Worth juvenile judge is expected to decide on Friday to transfer the case of America's so-called "affluenza" teen to the adult court system, where the 18-year-old could become eligible for release on bond.
Tarrant County prosecutors and attorneys for Ethan Couch have said they expect Judge Tim Menikos to transfer probation supervision to adult court for his conviction in juvenile court for killing four people while driving drunk in 2013.
A psychologist testifying on Couch's behalf said he was so spoiled that he could not tell right from wrong, describing him as being afflicted with "affluenza." Couch received probation for causing the deaths, spurring outrage, while the affluenza defense was widely ridiculed.
Couch has been in custody since he was brought back from Mexico last month. He and his mother, Tonya Couch fled there is December apparently to avoid Ethan Couch's arrest for violating the probation deal that had kept him out of jail.
If the transfer occurs, Couch's intoxication manslaughter case would be assigned to a district court judge who could release him on bond or order him to serve up to 120 days in jail as a condition of release, according Tarrant County district attorney spokesman Samantha Jordan.
"Judge Menikos can also choose to let him go with conditions," she said.
Prosecutors want the case moved to the adult system, where Couch could serve up to 40 years in prison for a subsequent probation violation.
A district court judge could also set new conditions for him when he turns 19 in April, court officials said.
At the time of the crash, Couch, then 16, had a blood alcohol level nearly three times above the legal limit for an adult when his pickup truck fatally struck a stranded motorist and three people who had stopped to assist the stranded driver.
Tonya Couch faces up to 10 years in prison for helping her son flee to Mexico after a video emerged on social media that appeared to show at a party where alcohol was being consumed.
Tarrant County Sheriff Dee Anderson, said he would be surprised if Couch is released on Friday.
"But you never know. That is not my call to make," he said.
(Reporting by Marice Richter; editing by Jon Herskovitz and G Crosse)