Judge rules ‘affluenza’ teen Ethan Couch can stay in juvenile prison, for now
Jan 30, 2016 03:15 AM EST
A judge ruled on Friday that the Texas teenager whose lawyers used an "affluenza" defense after he killed four people in a drunken driving accident, will remain in custody for now at a juvenile dentention facility in Fort Worth. Ethan Couch has been held in the juvenile facility since he was deported from Mexico on Thursday.
Texas Judge Timothy Menikos ruled that Ethan Couch, 18, "should remain in a juvenile detention facility while he awaits a Feb. 19 hearing to determine if his controversial case will be transferred to the adult system," NBC News reported.
Couch fled to Mexico last month with his mother after a video surfaced purportedly showing Couch at a party where alcohol was being served. Drinking alcohol would violate the probation deal reached in juvenille court that kept him out of prison for killing four people in 2013 accident. His probation also mandated that he should not leave Tarrant County, Texas.
In 2013, Couch was pleaded guilty to intoxication manslaughter and intoxication assault and was sentenced to 10 years of drug-and-alcohol-free probation. His lawyers argued that Couch shouldn't be held responsible because his privileged upbringing had rendered him incapable of understanding the consequences of his actions.
Couch was 16 when he swerved off a road near Fort Worth and hit a disabled car, killing its driver and three other people. He had a blood-alcohol level three times the legal limit for adult drivers.
In addition to the four dead, nine others were injured. Among the most severely injured survivors was paralyzed and can communicate only by blinking his eyes.
The judge ruling to keep Couch in juvenile facility was disappointing for prosecutors, the families of Couch's victims and for the advocacy group Mothers Against Drunk Driving, who wanted Couch imprisoned in an adult jail.
In Friday ruling, Judge Menikos said he was considering to move Couch to an adult prison. If that happens, Couch could be eligible for release on bail, adding the bail option was not available to him in the juvenile system, Reuters reported.
Couch's attorney, Scott Brown, said he doesn't plan to fight transferring Couch's case to adult court, The Washington Post reported.
If the case is moved to adult court, the judge could order Couch to spend up to 120 days in jail as part of an adult sentence, and then finish his 10 year probation. If Couch violates his probation, he could get up to 10 years in prison for each of the four people killed in the drunken driving accident.