'Affluenza' teen Ethan Couch moved to adult jail

Posted at 5:01 PM, Feb 05, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-05 17:01:52-05

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — The Texas teenager who used an "affluenza" defense in a fatal drunken-driving wreck was transferred to an adult jail on Friday, a week after a judge initially refused to do so.

Ethan Couch, 18, was moved to the Tarrant County jail from a juvenile detention center in Fort Worth, according to jail records. Couch had been at the facility since being deported last month from Mexico, where authorities believe he and his mother fled while prosecutors investigated whether he'd violated his probation in the 2013 drunken-driving case.

A hearing had been scheduled for Feb. 19 to determine whether Couch's case would be moved from juvenile court to the adult system. It wasn't immediately clear if Friday's jail transfer affected his status in the juvenile system.

The then 16-year-old Couch had a blood-alcohol level three times the legal limit for adult drivers when he swerved off a road near Fort Worth and hit a disabled car, killing its driver and three people helping her. Several other people were injured.

The case was handled in juvenile court, where Couch was sentenced only to probation. During the sentencing phase of that trial, a defense expert invoked the term "affluenza" when arguing that Couch's wealthy parents had coddled him into a sense of irresponsibility.

Couch's attorneys, Scott Brown and Reagan Wynn, didn't immediately return phone calls seeking comment on the status of the case Friday.

A judge sided with the defense attorneys during brief hearing Jan. 29, agreeing that Couch should stay at the juvenile center. Prosecutors and the local sheriff wanted him transferred to an adult jail.