‘Affluenza’ teen arrested in Mexico

Ethan Couch in Mexico
Ethan Couch in Mexico (Courtesy: CNN)

PUERTO VALLARTA, Mexico (KXAN) — After a ‘wanted’ poster was sent out several weeks ago for Ethan Couch, authorities in Mexico have arrested the so-called “affluenza” teen and his mother near the resort town of Puerto Vallarta on Monday night.

Authorities in Texas started searching for Couch, 18, when he didn’t show up for a regular visit with his probation officer on Dec. 10. Officials at the time say they didn’t know of his whereabouts and a spokesperson for the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office says there was no specific indication he tried to cross the border. Couch’s father told investigators he hadn’t heard from his son or ex-wife in the weeks leading up to the Dec. 10 incident. Authorities do not believe the father had any involvement in the escape to Mexico.

Couch was convicted of drunk driving in 2013 where he killed four people. He was granted probation after his lawyers argued his privileged upbringing made it hard for him to know right from wrong.

Police believe Couch might have fled because investigators wanted to ask him questions about a video posted on Twitter in November showing people at a party playing drinking games–one of them appeared to be Couch. If Couch were drinking, his probation would be revoked and a 10-year prison sentence could be imposed.

During a news conference on Tuesday, Tarrant County officials said Couch’s mom, Tonya Couch, will be charged with hindering apprehension when she is brought back to Texas.

Tarrant County Sheriff Dee Anderson says he wasn’t surprised the two were found together. “Her [Tonya] entire focus has been on protecting Ethan. Her entire focus has been on making sure he didn’t see any justice done, making sure he was not accountable. So, for her to assist him I feel like was the natural next occurrence.”

The District Attorney’s Office also wants to move Couch’s case from the juvenile system to the adult court system so they can seek a harsher probation. A detention hearing on Jan. 19 will allow the juvenile judge to determine if the case moves to the adult system. If the case stays in the juvenile system, the most time Couch can spend in juvenile detention for violating his probation is until he’s 19, which will be April 11, 2016.

“I’m not satisfied with four months in a juvenile facility,” says Tarrant County District Attorney Sharen Wilson.

If the case moves to adult court, the adult judge—as a condition of probation—can sentence Couch up to 120 days in jail. If he violates his adult probation after being released, then the judge has the authority to give him a 10-year sentence for each death.

“I hope that I seem like I recognize the seriousness of this man’s misconduct and his mother’s misconduct, and I hope like I sound that w’ere ready to deal with that when he gets here,” continues Wilson.

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