Ethan Couch Back in Texas, Still a Juvenile for Now

Ethan Couch's kinda strong, kinda strange trip to Mexico is over. After dropping his appeals against deportation earlier this week, the 18-year-old returned to Tarrant County Thursday. He will now face the transfer of his 10-year juvenile probation sentence — handed out after he killed four in a 2013 drunk-driving accident — to adult court.

Couch, infamous for his defense expert's claim that "affluenza" — basically a complete lack of boundaries and unlimited access to money — hindered his knowing right from wrong, has been in Mexico since sometime in early December, following a Twitter video that showed the teen playing a game of beer pong. Couch, apparently fearful that he'd violated his probation, fled to Mexico with his mother, Tonya. The duo was captured shortly before New Year's Day, after U.S. marshal's became aware of the Couches' whereabouts thanks to an order placed to a Puerto Vallarta Domino's Pizza.

Tonya Couch quickly returned to the United States to face felony charges related to her allegedly helping her son abscond. Ethan fought his return, securing the services of a Mexican lawyer and asserting a civil rights claim that allowed him to stay in a Mexico City detention facility until Thursday morning, when Mexican immigration officials put him on an Aeromexico flight to D/FW Airport.

"Let me just say that this is a different world a little bit for us. He is in the care, custody and control of the Tarrant County juvenile authorities. We do not run this facility. We do not guard this facility," Tarrant County Sheriff Dee Anderson said Thursday. "We are here in any capacity that is expected of us to assist or to help."

Ethan Couch is expected to make an appearance before a Tarrant County judge on Friday. That judge will determine whether Couch is booked into an adult facility, kept in juvie or released, Anderson said. The sheriff described Couch as quiet, passive and docile while being booked into the detention center. The hearing to determine whether his case will be moved to adult court is scheduled for February 19. If and when that happens Couch will face up to 120 days in jail as a condition of that transfer.
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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young