FORT WORTH, Texas—The mother of a Texas teenager who used an “affluenza” defense for a deadly wreck could soon leave jail days after the two were caught in a Mexican resort town.
A judge on Monday sharply reduced Tonya Couch’s bond from $1 million to $75,000. Couch is charged with hindering the apprehension of a felon — her 18-year-old son, Ethan Couch, who killed four people in a 2013 crash and was facing allegations that he violated his probation.
Tonya Couch was brought back to Texas last week, days after she and her son were arrested in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Ethan Couch remains in a Mexico City detention facility.
If Tonya Couch makes bail, she will be required to wear an electronic ankle monitor and remain at home except for appointments with her doctor and lawyer.
State District Judge Wayne Salvant said he understood prosecutors’ concerns that Couch might flee again, but that the charge against her, while a third-degree felony, wasn’t serious enough to merit a $1 million bond.
One of her attorneys, Stephanie Patten, said afterward that she wasn’t sure if Tonya Couch would immediately post bond.
Ethan Couch was 16 when he killed four people in June 2013. He rammed a pickup truck into a crowd of people trying to help stranded motorists on the side of a North Texas road. He was driving at nearly three times the legal limit for adult drivers.
A juvenile court judge gave Couch 10 years’ probation, outraging prosecutors who had called for the teen to face detention time. The case drew widespread derision after an expert called by Couch’s lawyers argued Couch had been coddled into a sense of irresponsibility by his wealthy parents, a condition the expert called “affluenza.”
Despite all of the previous testimony about Ethan Couch’s wealthy upbringing, his mother’s attorneys have argued that she had few assets to her own name and couldn’t pay the cost of a $1 million bond.
Another of Tonya Couch’s sons, Steven McWilliams, testified Monday that the balance on a bank account belonging to her read “-$99 billion.”
Tonya Couch is separated from Fred Couch, Ethan’s father, who owns a suburban Fort Worth business that does large-scale metal roofing.
According to an arrest warrant, Tonya Couch is accused of taking $30,000 and telling Fred Couch that he would never see her or Ethan again before fleeing.
The mother and son were apprehended in December in Puerto Vallarta, a Mexican resort town where they were snared after trying to order pizza.