Texas 'Affluenza' teen's extradition delayed

Texas teen Ethan Couch has his extradition delayed after being arrested in Mexico along with his mother over violating his 10 year probation

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Texas teen Ethan Couch after being arrested in Mexico on December 29, 2015

The mother of a Texas teenager, scorned for his "affluenza" defense in a trial over a deadly car crash, was deported from Mexico on Wednesday while her son won a temporary delay in his extradition, a Mexican official said.

Ethan Couch, 18, and his mother, Tonya Couch, 48, were captured in the Mexican Pacific Coast city of Puerto Vallarta on Monday. They fled there after officials in Tarrant County, Texas launched a probe into whether Ethan violated the terms of a probation deal that kept him out of prison after he killed four people with his pickup truck in 2013 while driving drunk.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the Mexican official said Tonya Couch was placed on a flight to Los Angeles because there were no more flights available to Texas. In Los Angeles, she would be in the hands of the US Marshals Service, the official said.

Authorities in Texas have issued a warrant for Tonya Couch's arrest for hindering apprehension. If convicted, she could face two to 10 years in prison, Tarrant County Sheriff Dee Anderson said.

A spokeswoman with the US Marshals Service said she could not comment on prisoner movements.

Ricardo Vera, a migration official in Mexico's Jalisco state, said earlier in the day the pair had filed an injunction to delay their extradition and a judge in Mexico would have up to 72 hours to consider the injunction.

Sheriff Anderson said he was not surprised by the pair seeking the delay.

"They (the Couches) have done everything that they can so far to avoid being accountable, or avoid being brought to justice. Any roadblock they can put in the way, any hurdle, I fully expect that," Anderson said in an interview.

Anderson said that when Ethan Couch does arrive back in the United States, he would appear at a detention hearing in the juvenile system. The judge could keep him in a juvenile detention facility or send him to an adult jail, he said.

During Ethan Couch's trial in juvenile court over the deadly crash in 2013, a psychologist testified on his behalf that he was afflicted with "affluenza," and that he was so spoiled by his wealth that he could not tell the difference between right and wrong.

The diagnosis is not recognized by the American Psychiatric Association and was has been widely ridiculed.

Couch was convicted on four counts of intoxication manslaughter and sentenced to 10 years of drink and drug-free probation, which critics saw as leniency because of his family's wealth. His flight to Mexico rekindled anger over that sentence.


Couch and his mother fled the United States earlier this month after a video surfaced online apparently showing Ethan Couch at a party where beer was being consumed. Authorities then launched a probe into a possible parole violation, law enforcement officials said.

The two were tracked down and arrested in Puerto Vallarta. Mexican authorities said they had been working with the US Marshals Service since Dec. 24 to locate them.

In the car crash, Couch, then 16, was speeding and had a blood-alcohol level nearly three times the legal limit when he lost control of his pickup truck and fatally struck a stranded motorist on the side of the road and three people who had stopped to help.

During their last days in Puerto Vallarta, Couch and his mother lived in a modest apartment, kept a low profile and at least once used a false name as they tried to stay under the radar, local people and neighbors said.

Asked about US media reports that a pizza order in Puerto Vallarta from a cellphone had led to the arrests, Anderson said it was more than a single incident.

"It was really good old-fashioned police work that led to this," he said.