NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) — Officials in Mexico put “affluenza” teen Ethan Couch on a plane this morning and he is now back in North Texas to face charges.
The teenager arrived at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport on Aeroméxico flight #2682, just before 11:00 a.m. Deputies with the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office met Ethan and U.S. Marshals at the airport. He was briefly processed through customs and immigration and then taken directly to the Lynn W. Ross Juvenile Detention Center, in Tarrant County.
Sheriff Dee Anderson said Ethan’s return marks the end almost two months of very hard work. “Our staff worked tirelessly, around the clock to make sure this day came,” he said. “It is a day… I said many times I would finally breathe a sigh of relief when they were both locked up in Tarrant County.”
Anderson did make it clear that, for now, Ethan would not be under his department’s watch. “Let me just say… he is in the care and custody of the Tarrant County juvenile authorities. We do not run or guard that facility.”
Anderson said there had been a couple of “false alarms” as to exactly when Ethan would leave Mexico and arrive back in North Texas, but that he had made it safely. “He appears in good health. I didn’t see anything visibly wrong with him. Visibly he, was as we’ve seen him many times in the video from Mexico, seemed to be fine.”
According to Anderson, Ethan was booked into the juvenile facility without incident. “I saw him inside – he’s very calm. He was very quiet, very passive, not at all argumentative or resistant.” The Sheriff then said the teen was screened through an initial process and, after telling officers he was hungry, sat down for a meal.
Anderson said Texas state law requires that Ethan go before a judge within 24 hours. His hearing is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Friday. At that time it will be determined if the teenager will continue to be held at the juvenile facility, be taken into custody and moved to adult jail, or be released.
Anderson said, “My preference would be to have him locked up in the adult jail, since he is an 18-year-old adult. I’d certainly feel better if he was there.”
Saying that he has always sought to hold Ethan and his mother accountable, Sheriff Anderson said, “We’ve reached a great milestone. I’ve said all along this is a day we looked forward to. We hope that finally, now justice can be served for those four victims and their families.”
It’s been less than 48 hours since Ethan dropped his Mexican deportation appeal. The teenager had been in the custody of immigration officials there for 28 days.
Video of Ethan on Thursday, released by Mexico’s National Immigration Institute, showed him wearing a camouflage-print hoodie and blue jeans as he was escorted onto a plane in Mexico City by uniformed Mexican immigration agents. The video shows Ethan with a light brown beard and mustache. When last seen in North Texas the teen had blonde hair. When he was first found and detained in Mexico he had dyed his hair, mustache and beard jet black.
The now 18-year-old is scheduled to appear at a hearing in Tarrant County tomorrow and then again on February 19. The latter hearing is to determine whether to transfer his juvenile probation case to the adult court system.
Ethan had been in Mexico since he and his mother fled to the country after a video was posted to Twitter, allegedly showing the teen at a party with several people playing beer pong. The six-second video shows several young people in a room, with red cups and beer cans stacked on a table. It ends when a young man dives onto the table, and it collapses. A person, reported to be Couch, can be seen clapping during the dive.
It’s been more than two weeks since Ethan’s mother, Tonya, returned to North Texas. After having her bond set at $1 million, a Tarrant County judge reduced the amount to $75,000. Tonya Couch posted the bond, was fitted with a GPS monitor, and was released on house arrest on January 12. She is charged with Hindering the Apprehension of a Felon.
Before Ethan arrived back in North Texas officials in Tarrant County tried to get his case moved to adult court, but Judge Timothy Menikos recessed the hearing after only a few minutes. He ruled that there was nothing in the court file showing that either of Ethan’s parents had officially been notified about the hearing. Prosecutors claimed they sent notice, but that probation officer’s never served the paperwork.
Ethan’s attorneys had also argued the hearing shouldn’t be taking place, since their teenage client was not present. The judge agreed saying that there was no proof Ethan “voluntarily absented himself” from being at the hearing. It was then the hearing to move the case to adult court was rescheduled for February 19.
Ethan’s case remains in juvenile court because he was only 16-years-old when he drove drunk, with a vehicle full of other young people, and slammed into a disabled SUV parked on the side of the road. The crash killed four people. After being convicted of four counts of intoxication manslaughter, and two counts of intoxication assault causing serious bodily injury, Ethan was sentenced to therapy and 10 years probation.
The case sparked national outrage when Ethan’s lawyers claimed the teen suffered from “affluenza” – a condition that left him with an irresponsible attitude because his rich parents never set limits for him.
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