Mother of 'affluenza' teen back in U.S. as son awaits deportation from Mexico

LOS ANGELES - The mother of fugitive Texas teen Ethan Couch, known for using an "affluenza" defence in a fatal drunken-driving accident, has been returned to the U.S.

See Full Article

from Mexico minus her son, whose own deportation was delayed by a Mexican judge.

Tonya Couch arrived at Los Angeles International Airport on a flight from Mexico in the custody of U.S. Marshals and was taken in handcuffs through the terminal to an unmarked car early Thursday morning. She was wearing street clothes and looked away from cameras as she walked with about five marshals and local police officers.

It was unclear why she was brought to Los Angeles instead of Texas, where she and her son live and where he was on probation for the 2013 drunken-driving crash. U.S. Marshals Service spokesman Eugene Hwang said he could not reveal any details about her trip through California or say how long she might remain here, citing security concerns in transporting someone in custody.

Richard Hunter, chief deputy for the U.S. Marshals Service in South Texas, said during a news conference in Houston on Wednesday that a three-day court injunction granted in Mexico to Ethan Couch will likely take at least two weeks to resolve.

But the injunction did not apply to Tonya Couch, who was deported immediately and put on a plane, an official with Mexico's National Immigration Institute told The Associated Press.

Ethan Couch was transported late Wednesday from a detention facility in Guadalajara to one in Mexico City, the official said. The decision to move Couch was made because the Mexico City facility for detaining migrants is larger and better equipped to hold someone for days or weeks.

Authorities believe the 18-year-old Ethan Couch, who was sentenced only to probation for the 2013 wreck in Texas, fled to Mexico with his mother in November as prosecutors investigated whether he had violated his probation. Both were taken into custody Monday after authorities said a phone call for pizza led to their capture in the resort city of Puerto Vallarta.

The ruling earlier Wednesday by the Mexican court gives a judge three days to decide whether the younger Couch has grounds to challenge his deportation based on arguments that kicking him out of the country would violate his rights.

Hunter said the legal manoeuvr basically takes the decision out of an immigration agent's hands and asks a higher authority to make the deportation decision. He said such cases can often take anywhere from two weeks to several months, depending on the priorities of the local courts.

"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."

During the sentencing phase of Ethan Couch's trial, a defence 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, who was paralyzed and suffered severe brain damage in the crash.

Ethan Couch's attorneys in the U.S. issued a statement Wednesday saying 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.

Mexican police say Couch and his mother spent three days in a rented condo at a resort development in Puerto Vallarta before finding an apartment. One of the Couches' telephones had been used to order delivery from Domino's Pizza to the condominium complex in Puerto Vallarta's old town, according to a police report issued by the Jalisco state prosecutors' office.

Agents from the prosecutors' office went to the complex, where a tourism operator told them that the people who had occupied the condo were asked to vacate because the owners were coming to stay over Christmas, the report said. The Couches then moved to an apartment, and the agents set up a surveillance operation in the surrounding streets.

On Monday evening, two people matching the Couches' description were spotted and intercepted. The police report said they behaved evasively, claimed to be carrying no IDs, gave inconsistent stories about their names and failed to provide proof of their legal migratory status in Mexico.

They were taken into custody and handed over to immigration officials.

Authorities in Texas said an arrest warrant was being issued for Tonya Couch on charges of hindering an apprehension, a third-degree felony that carries a sentence of two to 10 years in prison.

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.

He 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 centre.

-----

Associated Press writers E. Eduardo Castillo and Mark Stevenson in Mexico City, Elizabeth Rivera in Guadalajara, Mexico, Michael Graczyk in Houston, and Emily Schmall in Fort Worth, Texas contributed to this report.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • U.S. President Donald Trump on terror attacks: 'I’m 10-0 ... I’ve called every one of them'

    World News Toronto Sun
    A transcript of an Oval Office interview Friday with President Donald Trump by AP White House Correspondent Julie Pace. Where the audio recording of the interview is unclear, ellipses or a notation that the recording was unintelligible are used. Source
  • 3 African countries chosen to test 1st malaria vaccine

    World News CBC News
    In this 2009, file photo, a mother holds her baby receiving a malaria vaccine as part of a trial in Western Kenya. The World Health Organization says three African countries have been chosen to test the world's first malaria vaccine. Source
  • Four-year-old girl falls from moving bus onto busy highway

    World News CTV News
    A local volunteer firefighter and licensed EMT is being hailed a hero after coming to the rescue of a four-year-old girl who fell out of the back of a moving bus. Ryan Ciampoli captured the shocking moment on his vehicle’s dashcam as he drove behind the bus on Highway 65 in Harrison, Ark. Source
  • Sean Hannity calls sexual harassment accusation ’100% false’

    World News Toronto Sun
    NEW YORK — Sean Hannity says accusations of sexual harassment from a former Fox News guest are “100% false and a complete fabrication.” Debbie Schlussel tells Tulsa, Oklahoma, radio station KFAQ that Hannity repeatedly asked her to come to his hotel with him during a book signing event and a broadcast of his show in Detroit. Source
  • Edmonton gas station employee dragged in gas-and-dash

    Canada News CTV News
    RCMP in Edmonton are on the hunt for a man who allegedly ran over a gas station employee during a gas and dash Saturday afternoon. Chu Thai, the manager of the Superstore Gas Bar where the incident took place, told CTV Edmonton the employee attempted to stop a man from leaving the gas station without paying, when the suspect took off. Source
  • EU Commission throws weight behind Macron in French election

    World News CTV News
    BRUSSELS -- The European Union's head office has thrown its weight behind Emmanuel Macron in the French presidential runoff against Marine Le Pen, arguing it is a choice between the defense of the EU or those seeking its destruction. Source
  • Bill O’Reilly to return with new podcast episode Monday

    World News Toronto Sun
    LOS ANGELES — Bill O’Reilly is back and ready to talk. His personal website says the former Fox News host will air a new episode of his “No Spin News” podcast Monday evening. Fox News Channel’s parent company fired O’Reilly on Wednesday following an investigation into sexual harassment allegations by women. Source
  • As budget deadline looms, Trump pushes border wall funding

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- With a budget deadline looming, U.S. President Donald Trump plans a whirlwind of activities seeking to highlight accomplishments while putting fresh pressure on congressional Democrats to pay for a wall on the U.S. Source
  • Hamilton man in naval spy case wants info on CSIS wiretaps of Chinese Embassy

    Canada News CBC News
    A naval engineer from Hamilton, accused of trying to spy for Beijing, is asking a federal judge for full access to information about Canadian Security Intelligence Service wiretaps of the Chinese Embassy. Qing Quentin Huang says federal secrecy has placed him in an "impossible position" as he prepares to defend against espionage charges. Source
  • Haley won’t rule out strike vs North Korea for nuke testing

    World News Toronto Sun
    WASHINGTON — Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, isn’t ruling out a U.S. strike against North Korea if Pyongyang tests another nuclear missile. Haley spoke on several television networks Monday morning, praising China’s involvement in trying to pressure North Korea to cease missile testing and criticized its leader, Kim Jong Un, as unstable and paranoid. Source