'Affluenza' teen's mom to be sent back to TX

Posted at 5:10 PM, Jan 05, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-05 18:10:17-05

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The mother of a fugitive teenager known for using an "affluenza" defense in a deadly drunken-driving case agreed Tuesday to be sent from California to Texas to face a charge.

Tonya Couch, 48, said very little at an extradition hearing in downtown Los Angeles, where she was flown after being deported from Mexico. She answered "yes" when asked if she is the Tonya Couch wanted by the state of Texas.

It wasn't clear when Couch would return to the Lone Star State, but authorities there said they will bring her back before Friday. Tarrant County Sheriff Dee Anderson said he will dispatch deputies to pick her up after clearing up some "administrative matters."

She is charged with hindering the apprehension of a felon and will be held on a $1 million bond.

Couch and her 18-year-old son, Ethan, were apprehended last week in the Mexican resort city of Puerto Vallarta, where authorities believe the pair fled in November as Texas prosecutors investigated whether he had violated his probation in a car crash that killed four people.

Ethan Couch was being held at a detention facility in Mexico City after winning a court reprieve that could lead to a weeks- or even months-long legal process in Mexico. His lawyer in Mexico, Fernando Benitez, said he met with the teen at the center Tuesday but declined to say what they discussed.

Tonya Couch's attorneys previously released a statement saying she had done nothing illegal and wanted to get back to Texas as soon as possible.

"While the public may not like what she did, may not agree with what she did, or may have strong feelings against what she did, make no mistake — Tonya did not violate any law of the State of Texas and she is eager to have her day in court," lawyers Stephanie K. Patten and Steve Gordon said in the statement.

She is being held without bail until she is extradited to Texas. Prosecutors and defense attorneys declined to comment after Tuesday's hearing.

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.

He was sentenced to probation.


Associated Press writer Emily Schmall in Fort Worth, Texas, contributed to this story.


This story has been corrected to show that Tonya Couch is 48, not 38.