LOS ANGELES (AP) — The mother of a fugitive teenager known for using an “affluenza” defense in a deadly drunken-driving case agreed Tuesday to be sent from California to Texas to face a charge.
Tonya Couch, 48, appeared for an extradition hearing in downtown Los Angeles, where she was flown last week after being deported from Mexico. She said very little, answering “yes” when asked if she is the Tonya Couch wanted by the state of Texas.
It’s unclear when she will be sent to the Lone Star State, where prosecutors charged her with hindering the apprehension of a felon. Her next court date in Los Angeles was set for Jan. 19, but authorities in Texas could pick her up at any time, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
Couch and her 18-year-old son, Ethan, were apprehended last week in Mexico, where authorities believe the pair fled in November as Texas prosecutors investigated whether he had violated his probation in a car crash that killed four people.
Ethan Couch was being held at a detention facility in Mexico City after winning a court reprieve that could lead to a weeks- or even months-long legal process in Mexico. His lawyer in Mexico, Fernando Benitez, said he met with the teen at the center Tuesday but declined to say what they discussed.
Tonya Couch’s attorneys previously released a statement saying she had done nothing illegal and wanted to get back to Texas as soon as possible.
“While the public may not like what she did, may not agree with what she did, or may have strong feelings against what she did, make no mistake — Tonya did not violate any law of the State of Texas and she is eager to have her day in court,” lawyers Stephanie K. Patten and Steve Gordon said in the statement.
She was being held without bail until she is extradited to Texas, where her bond was set at $1 million. Prosecutors and defense attorneys declined to comment after Tuesday’s hearing.
Ethan Couch was driving drunk and speeding near Fort Worth in June 2013 when he crashed into a disabled SUV, killing four people and injuring several others, including passengers in his pickup truck.
During the sentencing phase of his trial, a defense expert argued that his wealthy parents coddled him into a sense of irresponsibility — a condition the expert termed “affluenza.” The condition is not recognized as a medical diagnosis by the American Psychiatric Association, and its invocation during the legal proceedings drew ridicule.
He was sentenced to probation.