crimes and misdemeanors

Did ‘Affluenza’ Teen’s Mom Force Him to Flee to Mexico?

Affluenza' Teen Wanted by U.S. Marshals
Ethan Couch. Photo: Handout/2015 U.S. Marshals

First Ethan Couch’s parents gave him “affluenza” — the made up condition used to explain his 2013 DUI crash that killed four people — and now they’re causing even more legal trouble. A juvenile-court hearing to determine whether the 18-year-old’s probation should be transferred to adult court was put on hold shortly after it began on Tuesday because Couch’s parents weren’t properly notified of the proceedings. Plus, Couch himself could not attend because he is still in a Mexico City detention facility.

Authorities allege that the teen and his mother, Tonya Couch, fled to Mexico last month when police began investigating the possibility that he violated his probation by drinking at a party. But in court his attorney Scott Brown presented an alternate theory, saying whether his client “was voluntarily or involuntarily taken to Mexico is something that is still being investigated.”

So far there is no evidence that Couch was forced to go on the lam, and it would not explain why he’s contesting his deportation (though his attorneys say he’s dropping that fight). Dallas attorney Peter Schulte, who is not involved in the case, told the Chicago Tribune that the argument may be “some extension of affluenza, that he can’t make decisions on his own and any time mommy says to do something he does it.” He predicted it wouldn’t impress the judge, since Couch is now 18, but if it does work it could create new problems for his mother. Tarrant County district attorney spokesperson Samantha Jordan said if the teen can present “adequate proof” that he was taken against his will, his mother could be hit with a kidnapping charge.

Couch’s next hearing is set for February 19.

Did ‘Affluenza’ Teen’s Mom Force Him to Flee?