FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – This morning the mother of ‘affluenza’ teen Ethan Couch woke up in a Tarrant County jail cell and after a bond hearing this afternoon she may be leaving the jail soon. Judge Wayne Salvant ordered her bond reduced to $75,000 with several conditions including weekly visits with the Community Supervisions and Corrections Department of Tarrant County. She is also not to consume alcoholic beverages or use social media.
“Let’s look at it for what it is, I understand everyone is concerned and there is outrage in the community… but as a judge I have to look at the law,” said Judge Salvant.
Couch and her lawyers were present at a 2 p.m. bond hearing at the Tarrant County Justice Center hoping to have her bond reduced. It was originally set at $1 million since she was charged with Hindering Apprehension of a Felon.
Tonya Couch’s lawyer made the case that she was not in a position to afford the current bond. She also claimed that suspects accused of more serious crimes do not receive a $1 million bond.
A prosecutor for the county argued that she had previously demonstrated the tendency to leave the jurisdiction. He claimed Couch knew terms of her son Ethan’s probation yet she still accompanied him as he fled to Mexico.
In closing arguments he said he opposes reduction of bond in any amount and that Tonya Couch has shown that she is “willing to expend great resources” to flee the jurisdiction of the Tarrant County Court.
Judge Salvant did inquire as to the whereabouts of Tonya Couch’s passport. He also said, “One of the things I am concerned about is that you cannot set a bail just to keep someone in jail.” He continued, “As a judge I have got to look at the law. I just don’t believe with everything I’ve heard today, that it should be $1 million,” he also said.
The judge also ordered that Couch pay restitution to cover costs to transport her back to Tarrant County – more than $3,000, according to prosecutors.
At some point, Couch is also expected to plea not guilty to helping her son run across the border. During her arraignment last week she entered no plea.
One of the reasons Couch’s bond was set at $1 million is because Tarrant County authorities consider her a flight risk. Couch’s attorneys argued that the seven-figure bond was excessive and unreasonable.
Couch’s lawyers were also upset that Tarrant County Sheriff Dee Anderson spoke with the North Texas mother last week, when she did not have legal representation present.
If Couch is able to post bond, her release does come with restrictions. Last week Judge Salvant made it clear that if Couch were to go home she would be required to wear an ankle monitor and turn over her passport.
Before Monday’s hearing, Couch spent the weekend in a jail cell. Her 18-year-old son is known for using ‘affluenza’ as a defense in his 2013 fatal drunk driving case.
Ethan Couch remains at a detention center in Mexico City. On the same day his mother was in court, Mothers Against Drunk Driving announced a petition to have the teen’s case moved from juvenile court to adult court.
“Everything possible must be done to hold him accountable and to ensure that Couch has no more victims,” stated MADD national president Colleen Sheehey-Church. “Couch is not a child. His actions are not that of a child. Four people were killed and several injured, and Couch continues to show no remorse and blatant disregard for the law.”
Ethan Couch will turn 19 years old in April. MADD hopes to recieve 30,000 signatures on the petition before January 19, before the hearing to discuss transferring Couch to Tarrant County.
Ethan Couch was intoxicated and speeding near Fort Worth when he crashed into a disabled SUV. Four people died and others were injured. He was sentenced to probation.
Defense lawyers for Couch successfully argued that Ethan was coddled by wealthy parents and lacked a sense of responsibility for his actions. An expert coined the term ‘affluenza’ for this unofficial condition, but the case and ruling were widely ridiculed by the community.
Video surfaced online late last year that appeared to show Ethan Couch in violation of his probation. While prosecutors looked into that video, authorities believe that Ethan and his mother fled to Mexico. After an FBI manhunt, they were found in Puerto Vallarta. The teen’s hair was dyed jet black, as opposed to his normal blonde look.
According to the arrest warrant for Tonya Couch, the mother withdrew $30,000 from the bank on the day after that video first appeared. She and Ethan then had their cell phones disconnected. The 48-year-old mother also reportedly told Ethan’s father, Fred Couch, that he would never see his son again.
“The public may not like what she did, may not agree with what she did, or may have strong feelings against what she did,” explained Steve Gordon and Stephanie K. Patten in their statement. “Tonya did not violate any law of the State of Texas, and she is eager to have her day in court.”
An immigration official in Mexico said Ethan Couch’s legal process outside of the U.S. could last for several weeks or even months.
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