Texas 'affluenza' teen is fighting deportation from Mexico; mother arrives in L.A.

The mother of a Texas teenager known for using his wealthy upbringing, or “affluenza,” as a defense in a fatal drunk driving case arrived in custody in Los Angeles on Thursday after authorities say she helped her son flee to Mexico to avoid punishment for possibly violating probation.

Los Angeles County jail records show that Tonya Couch, 38, was booked just after 1:30 a.m. Thursday and was being held without bail. Video obtained by CNN showed Couch being escorted from a flight at Los Angeles International Airport.

She’s being held in L.A. until U.S. marshals take her to Texas, LAX police officials said.

Couch and her 18-year-old son, Ethan, were considered international fugitives after he failed to show up for a probation hearing.

In 2013, when he was 16, Ethan Couch struck and killed four pedestrians near Forth Worth while driving drunk. Prosecutors wanted Couch to serve 20 years in prison.

Instead, he got off with rehab and probation after a defense expert argued in juvenile court that Couch suffered from “affluenza” — an inability to tell right from wrong because he'd had a spoiled upbringing and wealthy parents who never punished him for bad behavior.

The terms of his 10-year probation forbid him from driving or consuming alcohol.

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But on Dec. 2, a Twitter user posted a six-second video that appeared to show Couch, now 18, clapping and grinning at a party where young men were playing beer pong.

“Ya boy ethan couch violating probation,” tweeted the user, @BlondeSpectre, tagging the Tarrant County district attorney's office. With a blast of angry and sardonic keystrokes, she added, “Ethan Couch? more like Ethan Ouch you killed my family and suffered no consequencjaldjwldjkz.”

Couch and his mother disappeared shortly afterward. They were found Monday in the Mexican resort town of Puerto Vallarta after they ordered pizza and authorities traced the call.

Ethan Couch allegedly had a gun in Puerto Vallarta, according to ABC News. After the hotel staff moved the Couches to another room so the business could accommodate a disabled woman, the new guest found a gun in a nightstand, according to ABC.

The guest gave the gun to hotel workers, who then asked Couch if he had left anything in the room, the network reported. Couch reportedly took back the firearm without an explanation.

Couch remains in custody in Mexico and is fighting extradition to the U.S.

Richard Hunter, chief deputy U.S. marshal for the southern district of Texas, said Wednesday that a three-day injunction granted to Couch would probably take at least two weeks to resolve. But such legal maneuvers to block deportation from Mexico can drag on for months.

Though Couch is now legally an adult, his case is still being handled in juvenile court in Texas. Under Texas juvenile law, even if he is returned to the U.S. and is found to have violated his probation, Couch may have to spend only up to 120 days in jail.


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Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
A version of this article appeared in print on December 31, 2015, in the News section of the Los Angeles Times with the headline "Texas `affluenza' teen is fighting deportation - But the young man's mother has been sent back to the United States from Mexico." — Today's paperToday's paper | Subscribe


11:05 a.m.: Updated with a report that Ethan Couch had a gun with him while staying at a hotel in Mexico.

8:16 a.m.: Updated with more details on Tonya Couch in custody in L.A. 

Dec. 31, 12:29 a.m.: Updated with Tonya Couch's arrival in L.A.

This article was first posted at 6:19 p.m., Dec. 30.