FORT WORTH — A hearing to move the case of a Texas teen — known for his “affluenza” defense when he was given probation for killing four people in a 2013 drunken-driving crash — to adult court was postponed Tuesday.
Prosecutors seek the transfer to adult court because Ethan Couch, who was 16 at the time of the crash, couldn’t be certified as an adult for trial.
The hearing was rescheduled because Couch’s parents weren’t notified about it ahead of time. A new date was not announced.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving also seeks to have Couch’s case moved to adult court.
They had collected more than 40,000 signatures by Tuesday morning that they had hoped to present to prosecutors.
In a statement issued after the delayed hearing, MADD President Colleen Sheehey-Church said, “We’re frustrated that the hearing on the prosecution’s motion to transfer Ethan Couch from juvenile to adult court was delayed. Ethan Couch is no child and he shouldn’t be treated as such. It’s time for him to have to face consequences.”
If Couch’s case is moved to adult court, his probation could extend beyond his 19th birthday in April.
Last month, Couch and his mother, Tonya Couch, were found in Mexico after Ethan Couch missed a meeting with his probation officer in December. While Tonya Couch returned to the United States, Ethan Couch remained in Mexico. Attorneys there had filed paperwork to block his extradition.
Couch’s attorney Scott Brown said Tuesday that the documents filed in Mexico to stay his return to Texas have been withdrawn, meaning he should return to the U.S. soon.
A date for his return has not been set, but Brown said Couch would probably be back before his 19th birthday.
Tonya Couch was released from jail Jan. 12 wearing an ankle monitor.
She had been held at the Tarrant County (Texas) Jail since agreeing to leave Mexico and then California to face charges in Texas. She’s charged with hindering apprehension of a felon, her son Ethan Couch.
Authorities say Tonya Couch, 48, helped her son flee to Mexico after video surfaced that purportedly showed Ethan, 18, at a party where alcohol was served. Drinking alcohol would violate the terms of his probation.
In June 2013, Ethan Couch, then living in the Fort Worth suburb of Burleson, was driving drunk and speeding on a dark two-lane road south of the city when he crashed into a disabled SUV off to the side of the road, killing four people and injuring several others, including passengers in the then-16-year-old’s pickup.
He pleaded guilty to four counts of intoxication manslaughter and two counts of intoxication assault causing serious bodily injury. Because of his age he wasn’t certified as an adult for trial and a judge sentenced him in juvenile court to 10 years’ probation and a stint in a rehabilitation center. Prosecutors sought a lengthy prison sentence.
Couch’s case made global headlines when his lawyers argued at his trial that he suffered from “affluenza” — where he behaved poorly because of irresponsible rearing from his well-to-do parents.
Story courtesy USA TODAY. Contributing: Jim Douglas and Todd Unger, WFAA-TV, Dallas-Fort Worth. Follow Monica Hernandez on Twitter: @MHernandezWFAA