Tue | Sep 25, 2018

Mother of 'affluenza' teen is jailed in Los Angeles

Published:Friday | January 1, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Tonya Couch is taken by authorities to a waiting car after arriving at Los Angeles International Airport, Thursday in Los Angeles.


The mother of a fugitive Texas teen known for using an 'affluenza' defence in a fatal drunken-driving accident was jailed in Los Angeles on Thursday after being deported from Mexico, police said.

A Los Angeles police fugitive task force picked up Tonya Couch shortly after 1:30 a.m. at Los Angeles International Airport and took her to the Metropolitan Detention Center, 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 Monday after authorities said a phone call for pizza led to their capture in the resort city of Puerto Vallarta.

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 defence expert argued that his wealthy parents coddled him into a sense of irresponsibility a condition the expert termed 'affluenza'. The condition is not recognised as a medical diagnosis by the American Psychiatric Association, and its invocation during the legal proceedings drew ridicule.

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 centre.

A Mexican court delayed Ethan Couch's deportation 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 authorised 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 is likely to take at least two weeks to resolve, said Richard Hunter, chief deputy for the US Marshals Service in South Texas.