JUDGE

‘Affluenza' Teen's Hearing Rescheduled, Mom Didn't Know

A hearing has been delayed to consider whether Ethan Couch, the North Texas teenager known for using an "affluenza" defense, violated his probation in a fatal drunken-driving wreck.

That hearing at a Tarrant County courthouse went into recess shortly after 9 a.m. Tuesday because Couch's mother, Tonya Couch, wasn't notified of the hearing, according to defense attorneys.

The hearing is scheduled to resume at 9:30 a.m. on Feb. 19, according to a spokeswoman with the District Attorney's office.

The 18-year-old Couch was serving 10 years of probation for a drunken driving crash that killed four people in 2013 when he fled to Mexico with his mother. The two were captured last month and his mother was deported to the U.S., but Couch remains detained in Mexico City.

When the pair was arrested, Ethan Couch appeared to have tried to disguise himself by dyeing his blond hair black and his beard brown, according to investigators.

If a judge agrees to transfer the case to adult court, Couch will start his sentence over as an adult and his probation could extend past his 19th birthday. He could be ordered to spend 120 days in state jail before starting his next probated sentence.

If the case remains in juvenile court, Couch's record could be wiped clean when he turns 19 in April.

A hearing has been delayed to try Ethan Couch, a Texas teenager known for using an “affluenza” defense, as an adult and consider whether he violated his probation in a fatal drunken-driving crash.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving — which launched an online petition last week calling for 30,000 signatures to demand that Couch be tried as an adult — planned to attend Tuesday's hearing.

"We're frustrated that the hearing on the prosecution's motion to transfer Ethan Couch from juvenile to adult court was delayed. Ethan Couch is no child and he shouldn’t be treated as such. It's time for him to have to face consequences," MADD National President Colleen Sheehey-Church said. "However, the fight is not over. Already over 43,000 people lent their name to our petition demanding that this motion be granted. We will continue our petition at madd.org/fightaffluenza and use this time to rally even more support for these victims and their families."

The group exceeded their goal within 24 hours and are now trying for 60,000 signatures before the hearing in February.

"MADD will once again attend that hearing on behalf of the victims in this case, and in support of the prosecution," said Sheehey-Church.

Couch's attorneys invoked an "affluenza" defense during his trial for the deadly crash, blaming their client's privileged upbringing for his irresponsible actions. The condition is not recognized as a medical diagnosis by the American Psychiatric Association, and its invocation drew widespread ridicule.

Couch's mother, who was released from jail last week, has been charged with hindering the apprehension of a felon and could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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