Texas 'affluenza' mom set for hearing on helping son flee to Mexico

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 20, 2016 9:21 AM

By Marice Richter

FORT WORTH, Texas (Reuters) - The mother of the Texas “affluenza” teenager is set to appear in court on Monday on charges of helping her son flee to Mexico after he violated a probation deal that kept him out for jail for killing four people while driving drunk in 2013.

Tonya Couch, 49, was indicted by a Tarrant County grand jury last month on charges of hindering apprehension and money laundering. The hearing will be her first since she was set free on bond in January.

Couch, and her son, Ethan, 19, drew international attention last winter after fleeing the United States. He had apparently violated the probation deal that he stay drug- and alcohol-free after the deadly wreck.

At his trial in juvenile court in 2013, a psychologist testified in Ethan Couch’s defense that the then 16-year-old was a victim of “affluenza” and unable to tell right from wrong as a result of being spoiled by his family’s wealth.

The probation deal sparked outrage from critics who ridiculed the affluenza defense and said his family's wealth had helped keep him out of jail.

Tonya Couch was initially charged with aiding her son's flight, a felony that is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. The grand jury last month reaffirmed the original charge and added a second charge of money laundering of $30,000 to $150,000, a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Tonya Couch and her son left Texas after a video surfaced on social media in early December showing Ethan at an alcohol-fueled party, in likely violation of his probation deal.

Mother and son drove in a pickup truck to Puerto Vallarta, where they were caught by Mexican authorities in December after a manhunt of more than two weeks.

She was deported to Texas in January and posted bond after being remanded to Texas authorities.

Ethan Couch is currently serving a nearly two-year jail sentence as a condition of his new probation terms as an adult. His case was transferred from the juvenile to adult supervisory system on his 19th birthday in April.

(Reporting by Marice Richter; Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)