LOS ANGELES –– The mother of a Texas teenager who gained notoriety for his “affluenza” defence in a deadly drink-driving case waived her right to fight extradition to Texas during a brief court hearing today in California.
Wearing dark jail clothes and looking downcast, Tonya Couch, 48, was told she would be held in the custody of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and that the state of Texas had two weeks to collect her.
She spoke only in one-word replies to questions posed by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Sergio Tapia.
Couch’s fugitive son Ethan Couch, 18, is fighting extradition to the United States from Mexico.
Dee Anderson, sheriff of Tarrant County, Texas, said he had no immediate information on Tonya Couch’s return.
“It is certainly not imminent . . . . We will go to LA and get her,” Anderson said, adding a return to Texas was inevitable but that he could not discuss details due to security concerns.
“She could have fought extradition and stayed in California a bit longer. There was no way she was going to be released,” Anderson said. He added that she faced a $1 million bond in Tarrant County.
Couch and her son fled to Mexico after Tarrant County officials began investigating whether the teenager had violated the probation deal that kept him out of prison after he killed four people with his pickup truck in 2013.
Tonya Couch, who was wanted on a charge of hindering apprehension, was flown to Los Angeles from Mexico last week. If convicted, she could face two to ten years in prison.
Her son was sentenced to ten years of drink- and drug-free probation, which critics saw as leniency because of his family’s wealth.
During his trial, a psychologist testified on Couch’s behalf that he suffered from “affluenza”, meaning he was so spoiled that he could not tell right from wrong.
The diagnosis is not recognized by the American Psychiatric Association and was widely ridiculed.
Both Couchs were arrested last week in Mexico’s Pacific Coast resort of Puerto Vallarta.
A Mexican court has granted the teenager, who faces likely incarceration in Texas, a stay against deportation that could delay his return by weeks or months, a Mexican migration official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Couch is at a facility in Mexico City where illegal immigrants are held while their cases are processed.