Mother of ‘affluenza’ teen jailed

January 1, 2016 8:01 am

 Tonya Couch is taken by authorities to a waiting car after arriving at Los Angeles International Airport. Photo / AP

The mother of a fugitive Texas teen known for using an “affluenza”
defence in a fatal drunken-driving accident was jailed in Los Angeles
after being deported from Mexico.
An LAPD fugitive task force
picked up Tonya Couch at Los Angeles International Airport and took her
to the Metropolitan Detention Centre, according to Officer Norma
Eisenman. Her 18-year-old son, Ethan Couch, remains in a Mexican jail.
She
will be held at the downtown jail until US marshals take her to Texas,
where she and her son live and where he was on probation for the 2013
crash, Eisenman said. The police spokeswoman didn’t know why Couch came
through Los Angeles or when she would be transported.
US Marshals
Service spokesman Eugene Hwang said he could not reveal details about
Couch’s trip through California or say how long she might be there,
citing security concerns in transporting someone in custody.
Authorities
believe Ethan Couch, who was sentenced only to probation for the wreck
that killed four people, fled to Mexico with his mother in November as
prosecutors investigated whether he had violated his probation.

Both were taken into custody on Monday after authorities said a
phone call for pizza led to their capture in the resort city of Puerto
Vallarta.
A Mexican court delayed Ethan Couch’s deportation on
Wednesday, giving a judge three days to decide whether he has grounds to
challenge his deportation based on arguments that kicking him out of
the country would violate his rights.
But the injunction did not
apply to Tonya Couch, who was deported immediately, according to an
official with Mexico’s National Immigration Institute, who was not
authorized to discuss the case and spoke on condition of anonymity.
US
marshals took her in handcuffs through an LAX terminal to an unmarked
car. She was wearing blue street clothes and looked away from cameras as
she walked.
Authorities in Texas said they were issuing an
arrest warrant for her on charges of hindering an apprehension, a
third-degree felony that carries a sentence of two to 10 years in
prison.
Meanwhile, her son’s injunction will likely take at least
two weeks to resolve, said Richard Hunter, chief deputy for the U.S.
Marshals Service in South Texas.
The legal maneuver basically
takes the deportation decision out of an immigration agent’s hands and
asks a higher authority to make it, Hunter said Wednesday at a
conference in Houston. Such cases can often take up to several months,
depending on the priorities of the local courts, he said.
“It
also depends on the fact the Couches have legal counsel. And it seems to
me, if they wanted to, they could pay them as much money as they want
to drag this thing out,” Hunter said. “We’re hopeful that’s not the
case.”
Ethan Couch was transported late Wednesday from a
detention facility in Guadalajara to one in Mexico City, the Mexican
official said. Couch was moved because the Mexico City facility for
detaining migrants is larger and better equipped to hold someone for
days or weeks.
His attorneys in the U.S. said in a statement
Wednesday that they couldn’t comment on the case because they weren’t
licensed to practice law in Mexico. It wasn’t immediately clear which
attorneys were handling the case in Mexico.
Ethan Couch was
driving drunk and speeding near Fort Worth in June 2013 when he crashed
into a disabled SUV, killing four people and injuring several others,
including passengers in his pickup truck.
During the sentencing
phase of his trial, a defense expert argued that his wealthy parents
coddled him into a sense of irresponsibility – a condition the expert
termed “affluenza.” The condition is not recognized as a medical
diagnosis by the American Psychiatric Association, and its invocation
during the legal proceedings drew ridicule.
“Couch continues to
make a mockery of the system,” said Fort Worth attorney Bill Berenson,
who represented Sergio Molina. Molina was paralyzed and suffered severe
brain damage in the crash.
Couch pleaded guilty to four counts of
intoxication manslaughter and two counts of intoxication assault
causing serious bodily injury. A judge sentenced him in juvenile court
to 10 years’ probation and a stint in a rehabilitation center.
He
and his mother were tracked by a phone to a condominium complex in
Puerto Vallarta’s old town when it was used to order delivery from
Domino’s Pizza, according to a police report issued by the Jalisco state
prosecutors’ office.
They had moved to an apartment, and agents
set up a surveillance operation in the surrounding streets. The Couches
were taken into custody Monday evening and handed over to immigration
officials.

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