FORT WORTH, Texas/MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - The American teenager derided for claiming a defense of “affluenza” in the killing four people while driving drunk arrived back in Texas on Thursday after being deported from Mexico and was placed in juvenile detention.
After his flight landed, Ethan Couch, 18, wearing a hooded sweatshirt and sporting a beard, was seen with his hands behind his back being escorted by uniformed officers through the Dallas-Fort Worth airport.
About an hour after touching down, he was placed in a Tarrant County juvenile detention center, where the local sheriff said he was calm and being fed.
“He was as compliant and docile as anyone I have ever seen come into a facility,” Sheriff Dee Anderson told reporters.
“We are hoping that the day comes when justice is done for those families and the victims that were killed,” he said.
Couch fled to Mexico in December along with his mother after a video emerged on social media that likely showed the teen in violation of the probation deal reached in juvenile court that kept him out of prison for causing the deadly crash in 2013.
He faces a detention hearing on Friday or Monday, at which a judge will determine whether to transfer the case from the juvenile system to the adult system, his lawyers said.
“We are optimistic that, going forward, Ethan will comply with all court-imposed terms and conditions and that he will successfully complete his term of probation,” lawyers Scott Brown and Wm. Reagan Wynn said in a statement.
Couch was 16 when he was tried as a juvenile. A psychiatrist testifying on his behalf said he had “affluenza,” as his family’s wealth had left him so spoiled that it impaired his judgment to tell right from wrong.
The affluenza diagnosis, not recognized by the American Psychiatric Association, was widely ridiculed.
If he violated the probation deal, Couch faces about four months behind bars. His mother, Tonya Couch, faces up to 10 years in prison for helping her son flee to Mexico.
Couch’s lawyers may seek to transfer him to the adult system so he can apply for bail, an option not available in the juvenile system, a legal official said.
His mother was deported to the United States last month and has since been freed on bond.
He was sentenced to 10 years of drug-and-alcohol-free probation for intoxication manslaughter, a punishment condemned by critics as privilege rewarded with leniency.
Writing by Jon Herskovitz and Gabriel Stargardter; additional reporting by Suzannah; editing by Simon Gardner, G Crosse and Alistair Bell