‘Affluenza Teen' Ethan Couch to Remain in Mexico for Hearing, Mom Deported: Officials

"Affluenza teen" Ethan Couch, who fled the country while on probation for a deadly drunken-driving wreck, will not return to Texas Wednesday as originally expected after his attorneys filed a motion to keep him in Mexico, according to U.S. Marshals.

The 18-year-old Couch, on probation for killing four people in the wreck and invoking an "affluenza" defense, was detained in Mexico on Monday along with his mother, 48-year-old Tonya Couch, more than a week after they disappeared amid an inquiry into Ethan Couch's probation, authorities said.

Tonya Couch was deported to the U.S. Wednesday, an unnamed official from the Mexican National Institute of Migration told The Associated Press.

The Mexican official, who was not authorized to discuss the case and revealed the information on condition of anonymity, said Tonya Couch was sent on a flight from the Mexican city of Guadalajara to Los Angeles, California. She was extradited after immigration authorities did not receive a judge's injunction like the one that temporarily blocked the deportation of her son.

An official with the U.S. Marshal's Office said the case could drag out for weeks or months in Mexico.

"It seems to me, if they wanted to, they could pay them as much money as they want to, to drag this thing out as long as they want to," said Richard Hunter, chief deputy for the U.S. Marshal's Office in the Southern District of Texas.

Meanwhile, Ethan Couch was being transported Wednesday evening from Guadalajara to larger immigration facilities in Mexico City, a Mexican immigration official said.

The Mexican immigration official told The Associated Press that Ethan Couch will be held in the nation's capital during the judge's temporary injunction. The official said the decision to move Ethan Couch was made because the Mexico City facility is larger and better equipped to hold someone for days or weeks.

The official didn't say whether Ethan Couch was being transported by air or ground.

The Couches had been missing since Dec. 10, when Ethan did not appear for a probation hearing amid questions into whether Couch was seen in a video drinking at a party, which would violate the terms of his probation. Authorities had been able to find the pair by tracking Couch's cellphone when he ordered a pizza in Puerto Vallarta. 

Filing an 'Amparo'

Ethan Couch and his mother were expected to arrive in Houston Wednesday afternoon, where Tarrant County authorities planned to meet them and transport him to Fort Worth to appear before a magistrate. However, U.S. Marshals said Wednesday that his attorneys filed a writ of habeas corpus in Mexico, which could delay the teen's extradition by weeks or months.

"Ethan Couch and his mother have retained legal counsel in Mexico and have filed an 'amparo' – loose translation is a protection," Hunter said. "It takes the decision out of the lower level immigration agent's hands and asks that a higher authority make the decision to deport them."

Ethan Couch's American attorneys, Regan Wynn and Scott Brown, said in a statement that they do not represent Couch in Mexico, or his mother at all. They offered no other comment in the matter.

In June 2013, then-16-year-old Ethan Couch was driving drunk and speeding when he crashed into a disabled SUV, killing four people just south of Fort Worth. He pleaded guilty to four counts of intoxication manslaughter and two counts of intoxication assault, but was sentenced to 10 years' probation and a stint in a rehabilitation center because of his age.

During the sentencing phase, the teen's attorneys relied on a defense expert who 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.

According to Tarrant County Sheriff Dee Anderson, Ethan Couch showed no remorse after the crash.

"We saw absolutely no guilt or bad feelings or sympathy toward the four families and the four lives that he'd taken," he said.

Now an immigration court will decide if the deportation should move forward, although there is apparently no clear time frame. 

The ruling could lead to a weeks-long legal process if a judge decides Ethan Couch has grounds to challenge his deportation based on arguments that kicking him out of Mexico would violate his rights. The judge has three days to consider Ethan Couch's appeal.

"We do not know if the Mexicans have the highest priority on this case, like we do here in America," Hunter said. "We've seen these things happen as quickly as two weeks to two months."

The U.S. Marshal's Office hopes when the 'amparo' is decided Ethan Couch will fly into North Texas. The pair had been scheduled to fly into Houston because there were no flights available to the Dallas-Fort Worth area with six seats -- two for Ethan and Tonya Couch and four for Mexican immigration agents who would accompany them.

A 2-Week Search 

Before he was detained Monday, authorities had been searching for Ethan Couch after he failed to show up for a meeting with a probation officer Dec. 10. His mother had been listed as a missing person by the Tarrant County district attorney's office.

According to Hunter, the U.S. Marshal's Office gave a Mexican immigration agent the address where Ethan and Tonya Couch were staying.

"They were asked if they were Mexican citizens; of course, they are not. They were asked if they had proper documentation; they did not. So at that time they were taken into immigration custody," Hunter said. The pair were then subject to deportation.

Anderson, the Tarrant County sheriff, said he thinks the two fled the country in November when a video surfaced that appears to show Ethan Couch at a party where people were drinking. Ethan Couch would have faced up to 10 years in prison if found to be drinking alcohol.

Authorities said Tuesday they planned to charge the teen's mother with hindering an apprehension, a third-degree felony punishable by two to 10 years in prison

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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