AP: Mom of affluenza teen Ethan Couch deported, Ethan still in Mexico
The mother of a Texas teenager known for using an "affluenza" defense in a fatal drunken-driving accident has been deported back to the U.S., according to the Associated Press.
The report came just hours after the US Marshals said it could take weeks or months to get Ethan and Tonya Couch extradited from Mexico. While Tonya was on her way back to the U.S., Ethan was still behind bars in Mexico.
The National Immigration Institute official said Tonya Couch left late Wednesday afternoon on a flight from Guadalajara, Mexico, to Los Angeles. The person was not authorized to discuss the case and revealed the information on condition of anonymity.
The official said she was sent home because immigration authorities did not receive a judge's injunction like the one that temporarily blocked the deportation of her son. For now he will remain in custody in Guadalajara.
Richard Hunter, chief deputy U.S. marshal for the southern district of Texas, said during a news conference in Houston earlier Wednesday that a three-day injunction granted to Ethan Couch would likely take at least two weeks to resolve.
Authorities believe the 18-year-old, sentenced only to probation for the 2013 wreck in Texas, fled to Puerto Vallarta with his mother as prosecutors investigated whether he had violated his probation.
The ruling by the Mexican court could lead to a weeks-long legal process if a judge decides the younger Couch has grounds to challenge his deportation based on arguments that kicking him out of the country would violate his rights. The judge has three days to consider Couch's appeal.
The Couches were taken into custody Monday after authorities said a phone call for pizza led to their capture in the Mexican resort city. They were being held by immigration officials in Guadalajara.
During the sentencing phase of Couch's 2013 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 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.
Couch's attorneys in the U.S. said they are not licensed to practice in Mexico and are only representing Ethan in Texas, not his mother.
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, far from the glitzy resorts of the city's newer section, 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.
In Texas, Tarrant County Sheriff Dee Anderson said Tuesday that the Couches had prepared to be gone a while, even dyeing the teenager's blond hair black.
"They had planned to disappear. They even had something that was almost akin to a going-away party before leaving town," Anderson said. He declined to detail the party, including how many people attended.
Anderson said Couch and his mother apparently crossed the border in her pickup and drove to Puerto Vallarta. No immediate charges were planned for others who may have known about or assisted with the plan, Anderson said. He noted that authorities have no evidence that Couch's father, who owns a sheet metal factory in North Texas, was involved.
The sheriff has said he believes the two fled in late November, after a video surfaced that appears to show Ethan Couch at a party where people were drinking. If found to be drinking, Couch could see his probation revoked and face up to four months in jail.
Authorities began searching for him and his mother after he missed a mandatory appointment with his probation officer on Dec. 10.
Tarrant County District Attorney Sharen Wilson said Tuesday that she planned to ask that Couch's case be transferred to adult court, where he could face up to 120 days in an adult jail, followed by 10 years' probation. If he violates that probation, he could face up to 10 years in prison per death, Wilson said.
Anderson 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.
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 center.