FORT WORTH, Texas (Reuters) - The Texas teenager who was derided for an “affluenza” defense for killing four people while driving drunk was transferred to an adult jail on Friday from the juvenile center where he has been held since he was deported from Mexico in late January.
Ethan Couch, 18, was in custody in a single cell, for his own protection, at an adult jail in Tarrant County, Sheriff Dee Anderson said.
His case is still under the jurisdiction of the juvenile system, which means he is not currently eligible for bond, Anderson told reporters.
“He is getting ready to be 19 years old. He is an adult. He doesn’t need to be housed in a juvenile facility, in my opinion,” Anderson said.
A hearing planned for Feb. 19 will determine if his case will move to the adult system, Anderson said. If that happens, Couch could be eligible for release on bond, legal sources have said.
“He was very soft-spoken. He voiced no concerns about what was happening,” Anderson said after meeting Couch at the county jail.
Couch, 18, fled to Mexico in December with his mother after apparently violating the probation deal reached in juvenile court that kept him out of prison for killing the four people in 2013.
No bond amount was listed on his online jail records. The move came as a result of a judge’s order, law enforcement officials said.
Couch was 16 when he was tried as a juvenile. He gained notoriety when a psychiatrist testifying on his behalf said he had “affluenza,” arguing his family’s wealth had left him so spoiled that it impaired his ability to tell right from wrong.
The affluenza diagnosis, not recognized by the American Psychiatric Association, was widely ridiculed.
Couch faces 120 days behind bars if he is found to have violated the terms of his probation.
His mother, Tonya Couch, faces up to 10 years in prison for helping her son flee to Mexico.
Reporting by Marice Richter; Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Sandra Maler and Lisa Shumaker