Official: ‘Affluenza’ teen granted temporary stay against deportation


The teen fugitive known for using an “affluenza” defense during his trial for a fatal crash was granted a three-day delay against deportation from Mexico, a Mexican official said Wednesday morning.

An official with Mexico’s Migration Institute told an Associated Press reporter about Ethan Couch’s court injunction. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he or she wasn’t authorized to be quoted by name.

Couch and his mother were scheduled to be sent back to the U.S. on Wednesday. It wasn’t immediately clear if his mother, Tonya Couch, also would be granted a delay.

Both had been scheduled to fly back to Houston after authorities said a phone call for pizza led to their capture in the Mexican resort city of Puerto Vallarta. They were being held at immigration offices in Guadalajara.

Couch’s attorneys did not immediately return calls for comment.

The mother and son had earlier filed a “legal writ” to remain in Mexico, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported Wednesday morning. The pair had been on the run for several weeks after it appeared Ethan may have violated his parole.

“They’re trying to fight being brought back somehow,” Sheriff Dee Anderson said. “It’s just a continuing string of what we’ve seen all along. We’re patient people. We’ll be waiting.”

A cellphone used to order pizza helped lead authorities to the pair.

According to a police report issued by the Jalisco state prosecutors’ office, the duo used one of their phones to order Domino’s Pizza for a room at a condominium in the beach city of Puerto Vallarta. A U.S. Marshals Service agent tipped authorities in Mexico about the location of the phone on Monday.

When agents went to the condo, the Couches had already moved on, but a tourism operator pointed agents to the mother and son’s new home at an apartment in Puerto Vallarta’s old town. Agents set up a surveillance operation in the area and found the Couches that night.

The police report says they claimed to be carrying no identification and gave inconsistent stories about their names. They were taken into custody and handed over to Immigration officials.

Ethan Couch was driving drunk and speeding on a road south of Fort Worth in June 2013 when he crashed into a disabled SUV off to the side, killing four people and injuring several others, including passengers in his pickup truck.

During the sentencing phase of Couch’s 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 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.

After Couch’s latest escapade, Tarrant County District Attorney Sharen Wilson said she plans to ask a judge to transfer his case to adult court at a scheduled Jan. 19 probation violation hearing.

Couch would then face up to 120 days in an adult jail, followed by 10 years’ probation. If he violates probation, he could face up to 10 years in prison per death, Wilson said.

If the judge declines to transfer Couch to adult court, Wilson will ask that his probation be revoked, in which case he could be held in a juvenile facility until his sentence expires when he turns 19 next April.

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.

The sheriff has said he believes mother and son fled in late November after a video surfaced that appears to show Couch at a party where people were drinking. Authorities had begun searching for Couch and his mother after he missed a mandatory appointment with his probation officer on Dec. 10.

Couch’s parents are also no strangers to the law. Tonya and Fred Couch have more than 20 criminal and traffic offenses on their records, according to the Daily Mail, and Fred Couch is awaiting trial on charges of false identification after allegedly posing as a police officer, and even flashing a phony badge.

The couple married in 1996, according to Ten years later they divorced, then remarried. After their son’s drunken-driving crash, they separated again.

In a 2013 deposition for a civil suit brought by one of the victims of Ethan’s crash, the teen admits to taking drugs, including Valium, Hydrocodone, marijuana, cocaine, Xanax, Vyvanse.

In the tapes of the testimony, obtained by ABC News, it was also revealed that Ethan Couch was found drinking in a parked pickup with a naked, passed out girl when he was 15. He was never disciplined, and was allowed to drink at a young age and drive himself to school at just 13.

Attorneys: “You understood, did you not, that he was likely to continue the drinking and driving if there weren’t consequences?”

Tonya Couch: “I should have known that, yes. I really didn’t think that that would happen again.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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