Sheriff to ‘affluenza’ teen’s mom: ‘This is a jail, not a resort’

Posted at 1:49 PM, Jan 08, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-08 13:49:48-05

Weeks after she and her son went missing, sparking an international search, Tonya Couch is back where she started: Tarrant County, Texas.

That’s where the mother of so-called affluenza teen Ethan Couch is set to face a charge of hindering the apprehension of a felon.

She arrived in Texas Thursday, two days after a Los Angeles judge approved her extradition and more than a week after Mexican authorities detained her with her son in a Pacific resort town.

Couch was arraigned Friday morning in Fort Worth. Her attorney was not present.

A judge set a bond hearing for her on Monday morning. At that time, he will consider reducing the bond amount, which was set at $1 million.

If she were to make bond, the judge said he would impose a series of restrictions, including forcing her to wear an ankle monitor.

Tarrant County Sheriff Dee Anderson spoke with Couch.

“I believe she expressed a slight bit of displeasure about her accommodations,” Anderson said. “I explained to her this is a jail, not a resort.”

The mother’s return to Texas is the latest twist in a controversial case that drew national attention.

Before he went to Mexico, Ethan Couch was on probation for killing four people in a 2013 drunken driving accident when he was 16. At the time, many were outraged that a judge sentenced him to probation instead of jail time, slamming his now-notorious “affluenza” defense: Trial testimony suggested he was too rich and spoiled to understand the consequences of his actions.

In mid-December, a warrant was issued for Couch, who’s now 18, to be taken into custody after his probation officer couldn’t reach him. He appeared to have dropped off the radar after a video emerged that allegedly showed him at a party where alcohol was consumed.

He had been ordered to stay away from drugs and alcohol for the duration of his probation.

The teen’s disappearance reignited controversy over the case and renewed calls for him — and his mother — to be held accountable.

Tonya Couch returned to the United States last week and had been in the custody of the Los Angeles police. This week a judge there approved her extradition to Texas.

Sheriff Anderson, who accompanied deputies as they took her from the airport to jail Thursday, described the mother as “cooperative, polite (and) appreciative of the way she’d been treated so far.”

Her attorney has maintained her client’s innocence.

“While the public may not like what she did, may not agree with what she did, or may have strong feelings against what she did, make no mistake — Tonya did not violate any law of the state of Texas and she is eager to have her day in court,” attorney Stephanie Patten said in a statement last week.

Ethan Couch is still in Mexico; when he returns to the United States depends in large part on whether he decides to contest his deportation. Last week a Mexican judge granted the teen a temporary stay halting deportation proceedings.

Anderson told reporters Thursday he’s confident the teen eventually will return to Texas.

“If he gets released back into Mexico and we have to start hunting him again, I’m going be as disappointed as anybody in the world,” he said. “I think we’ve been assured that it’s not a question of if he’s coming back, it’s a question of when he’s coming back. And I’ve said over and over, we’re patient, we’ll wait, we’ll be here.”