LOS ANGELES – The mother of fugitive Texas teen Ethan Couch, known for using an "affluenza" defense in a fatal drunken-driving accident, was charged Thursday in her son's escape to Mexico.
Tonya Couch was charged with hindering apprehension of a fugitive, which carries a possible sentence of 2-10 years in prison, Tarrant County Spokesperson Samantha Jordan told Fox News. Tonya Couch's bond was set at $1 million.
Tonya Couch arrived at Los Angeles International Airport on a flight from Mexico in the custody of U.S. Marshals and was taken in handcuffs through the terminal to an unmarked car early Thursday morning. She was wearing street clothes and looked away from cameras as she walked with about five marshals and local police officers.
It was unclear why she was brought to Los Angeles instead of Texas, where she and her son live and where he was on probation for the 2013 drunken-driving crash.
"She is currently in the custody of the LAPD," Jordan said. "She will have an extradition hearing there in LA, and the timing of her return is contingent on that outcome."
Richard Hunter, chief deputy for the U.S. Marshals Service in South Texas, said during a news conference in Houston on Wednesday that a three-day court injunction granted in Mexico to Ethan Couch will likely take at least two weeks to resolve.
But the injunction did not apply to Tonya Couch, who was deported immediately and put on a plane, an official with Mexico's National Immigration Institute told The Associated Press.
Ethan Couch was transported late Wednesday from a detention facility in Guadalajara to one in Mexico City, the official said. The decision to move Couch was made because the Mexico City facility for detaining migrants is larger and better equipped to hold someone for days or weeks.
Authorities believe the 18-year-old Ethan Couch, who was sentenced only to probation for a deadly 2013 wreck in Texas, fled to Mexico with his mother in November as prosecutors investigated whether he had violated his probation. Both were taken into custody Monday after authorities said a phone call for pizza led to their capture in the resort city of Puerto Vallarta.
The ruling earlier Wednesday by the Mexican court gives a judge three days to decide whether the younger Couch has grounds to challenge his deportation based on arguments that kicking him out of the country would violate his rights.
U.S. officials expect the process to take quite a bit longer, however.
Hunter said the legal maneuver basically takes the decision out of an immigration agent's hands and asks a higher authority to make the deportation decision. He said such cases can often take anywhere from two weeks to several months, depending on the priorities of the local courts.
"It also depends on the fact the Couches have legal counsel. And it seems to me, if they wanted to, they could pay them as much money as they want to drag this thing out," Hunter said. "We're hopeful that's not the case."
Ethan Couch was driving drunk and speeding near Fort Worth in June 2013 when he crashed into a disabled SUV, killing four people and injuring several others, including passengers in his pickup truck.
He pleaded guilty to four counts of intoxication manslaughter and two counts of intoxication assault causing serious bodily injury. A judge sentenced him in juvenile court to 10 years' probation and a stint in a rehabilitation center.
During the sentencing phase of the trial, a defense expert argued that Couch's wealthy parents coddled him into a sense of irresponsibility -- a condition the expert termed "affluenza." The
condition is not recognized as a medical diagnosis by the American
Psychiatric Association, and its invocation during the legal proceedings drew ridicule.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.