FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – The mother of ‘affluenza’ teen Ethan Couch walked out of prison on Tuesday morning. Tonya Couch posted bond Monday night after a judge agreed to significantly lower the amount to just $75,000. It had initially been set at $1 million.
But the 48-year-old mother could not go home right away. Judge Wayne Salvant had several conditions for Couch, including a required ankle bracelet. She was fitted with that GPS monitor before leaving custody. Couch must also make weekly visits with the Community Supervisions and Corrections Department of Tarrant County, and cannot consume alcoholic beverages or use social media.
Couch did not say a word as she was escorted down the street by deputies, on her way to get that ankle monitor.
Salvant was critical of the high bond being used solely to keep Couch locked up. “You cannot set a bail just to keep someone in jail,” Salvant said. Officials in Tarrant County said that the bond amount was set so high because they feared that Couch was a flight risk.
Couch’s lawyers called the seven-figure bond excessive and unreasonable, saying that suspects accused of more serious crimes do not get such high bond amounts. The lawyers were also upset that Tarrant County Sheriff Dee Anderson spoke with Couch last week, when she did not have legal representation present.
“I have got to look at the law,” Salvant said on Monday. “I just don’t believe, with everything I’ve heard today, that it should be $1 million.”
After leaving jail, Couch was picked up by her other son, Stephen McWilliams, who also testified in court on Monday. He told the judge that his mother could not come up with the money for a $1 million bond as she no longer had any property, cash or cars. Prosecutors implied that she still had about $100,000 in the bank.
Couch will now be living with McWilliams.
Anderson appeared frustrated by the outcome. “We hope that the restrictions that were put on her are going to be sufficient to keep her where she needs to be,” he said after the bond was reduced. “I think that’s always a concern that you’re going to have with someone who’s already fled one time.”
Tonya Couch is charged with hindering the apprehension of a felon after allegedly helping her son hide in Mexico late last year to avoid jail time. The woman’s 18-year-old son is known for using ‘affluenza’ as a defense in his 2013 fatal drunk driving case.
Ethan Couch was intoxicated and speeding near Fort Worth when he rammed into a disabled vehicle. Four people died in that incident and several others were injured. Ethan 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.
Family members of the victims were in the courtroom on Monday as Ethan’s mother saw her bond amount reduced.
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 mother also allegedly told Ethan’s father that he would never see his son again.
Tonya Couch arrived back in Texas last week. It cost Tarrant County taxpayers more than $3,100 to extradite her into the U.S. through Los Angeles. Couch will have to pay back that amount.
The family’s attorneys released a statement late last week saying that Tonya Couch had done nothing wrong. “The public may not like what she did, may not agree with what she did, or may have strong feelings against what she did,” Stephanie K. Patten and Steve Gordon said in their statement. “Tonya did not violate any law of the State of Texas, and she is eager to have her day in court.”
Meanwhile, former fugitive Ethan Couch remains at a detention center in Mexico City. An immigration official in Mexico said that his legal process outside of the U.S. could last for several weeks or even months.