Attorney: 'Affluenza' teen may have been forced to flee to Mexico

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'Affluenza' Teen Ethan Couch Wins Temporary Stay Against Deportation

FORT WORTH, Texas, Jan 19 (Reuters) - An attorney for a teenager who killed four people in the "affluenza" drunken-driving case may have been forced to go to Mexico with his mother after an apparent violation of his probation, a defense attorney said on Tuesday.

A hearing on whether to move Ethan Couch's case to adult court lasted only a few minutes without a decision on Tuesday when a judge ruled his parents were not adequately notified about the hearing.

A new hearing date was set for Feb. 19.

READ EARLIER: Mother of Texas 'affluenza' teen released from jail

Couch, 18, and his mother, Tonya Couch, 48, were captured in Puerto Vallarto, Mexico, last month after a manhunt of more than two weeks. She was returned to Texas and faces a third-degree felony charge for helping her son flee while Ethan remains in a Mexican immigration detention center fighting efforts to bring him back to the United States.

Lawyers for Couch want the proceedings in Fort Worth to come to a halt, arguing the case should not go forward because he is not present. They say he may have been abducted by his mother.

"We are examining the facts ... to determine whether he was taken voluntarily or involuntarily to Mexico," attorney Scott Brown told reporters.

See photos of Ethan Couch

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Attorney: 'Affluenza' teen may have been forced to flee to Mexico
This Dec. 28, 2015 photo released by Mexico's Jalisco state prosecutorís office shows who authorities identify as Ethan Couch, after he was taken into custody in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. U.S. authorities said the Texas teenager serving probation for killing four people in a drunken-driving wreck after invoking an "affluenza" defense, was in custody in Mexico, weeks after he and his mother disappeared. (Mexico's Jalisco state prosecutorís office via AP)
This undated photo provided by the U.S. Marshals Service, shows Ethan Couch. The U.S. Marshals Service have joined the search for Couch, a teenager who was serving probation for killing four people in a 2013 drunken-driving wreck after invoking the "affluenza" defense, an argument that his wealthy parents coddled him into a sense of irresponsibility. (U.S. Marshals Service via AP)
This frame grab taken from a Thursday, Jan. 28, 2016 video provided by Mexico's Instituto Nacional de Migracion, INM, shows Ethan Couch, escorted onto a plane by Mexican immigration agents, in Mexico City. INM says it has taken the Texas teenager who used an "affluenza" defense in a fatal drunken-driving accident to the Mexico City airport, to fly him back to Texas to face charges. Couch was placed on a commercial flight to Dallas, Texas. (Instituto Nacional de Migración, INM via AP)
This frame grab taken from a Thursday, Jan. 28, 2016 video provided by Mexico's Instituto Nacional de Migracion, INM, shows Ethan Couch, as he is escorted by Mexican immigration agents, upon their arrival to the international airport in Mexico City. INM says it has taken the Texas teenager who used an "affluenza" defense in a fatal drunken-driving accident to the Mexico City airport, to fly him back to Texas to face charges. The institute said Thursday that Couch would be placed on a commercial flight to Dallas, Texas. (Instituto Nacional de Migración, INM via AP)
This undated wanted poster photo provided by the U.S. Marshals Service, shows Ethan Couch. The U.S. Marshals Service have joined the search for Couch, a teenager who was serving probation for killing four people in a 2013 drunken-driving wreck after invoking a defense that he suffered from "affluenza." (U.S. Marshals Service via AP)
Lucas McConnell, 13, right wipes tears from his eyes after speaking to reporters with his attorney Todd Clement, left, by his side Wednesday, March 26, 2014, in Burleson, Texas. The family of Lucas McConnell, injured by a drunken teen driver whose attorneys later claimed he suffered from "affluenza," plans to continue its lawsuit against the driver. While most families who sued Ethan Couch over a wreck that left four dead have settled, the McConnell's will continue fighting Couch in court. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
Attorney Todd Clement, second from left, speaks during new conference with his client Lucas McConnell, 13, center right, Alesia McConnell, left, and Kevin McConnell look on Wednesday, March 26, 2014, in Burleson, Texas. The family of Lucas McConnell, injured by a drunken teen driver whose attorneys later claimed he suffered from "affluenza," plans to continue its lawsuit against the driver. While most families who sued Ethan Couch over a wreck that left four dead have settled, the McConnell's will continue fighting Couch in court. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
FILE - In this December 2013 image taken from a video by KDFW-FOX 4, Ethan Couch is seen during his court hearing in Fort Worth, Texas. The family of Couch, who killed four people in a drunken wreck, have reached a settlement of more than $2 million with the family of a teenage boy left disabled. Tarrant County court documents filed Friday show that the liability insurer of Ethan Couchâs parents agreed to pay $1.64 million in cash to a trust established for Sergio E. Molina. (AP Photo/KDFW-FOX 4, File)
Ethan Couch, center, sits in juvenile court for a hearing about his future Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014, in Fort Worth, Texas. Judge Jean Boyd again decided to give no jail time for Couch, who was sentenced to 10 years' probation in a drunken-driving crash that killed four people, and ordered him to go to a rehabilitation facility paid for by his parents. The sentence stirred fierce debate, as has the testimony of a defense expert who says Couch's wealthy parents coddled him into a sense of irresponsibility. The expert termed the condition "affluenza." (AP Photo/LM Otero)
Ethan Couch, center, sits in juvenile court for a hearing about his future Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014, in Fort Worth, Texas. Judge Jean Boyd again decided to give no jail time for Couch, who was sentenced to 10 years' probation in a drunken-driving crash that killed four people, and ordered him to go to a rehabilitation facility paid for by his parents. The sentence stirred fierce debate, as has the testimony of a defense expert who says Couch's wealthy parents coddled him into a sense of irresponsibility. The expert termed the condition "affluenza." (AP Photo/LM Otero)
Tonya Couch, left, and Fred Couch, parents of teenager Ethan Couch, arrive at juvenile court for a hearing about their son's future Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014, in Fort Worth, Texas. Judge Jean Boyd again decided to give no jail time for Ethan Couch, who was sentenced to 10 years' probation in a drunken-driving crash that killed four people, and ordered him to go to a rehabilitation facility paid for by his parents. The sentence stirred fierce debate, as has the testimony of a defense expert who says Couch's wealthy parents coddled him into a sense of irresponsibility. The expert termed the condition "affluenza." (AP Photo/LM Otero)
Tonya Couch, left, and Fred Couch, parents of teenager Ethan Couch, arrive at juvenile court for a hearing about their son's future Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014, in Fort Worth, Texas. Judge Jean Boyd again decided to give no jail time for Ethan Couch, who was sentenced to 10 years' probation in a drunken-driving crash that killed four people, and ordered him to go to a rehabilitation facility paid for by his parents. The sentence stirred fierce debate, as has the testimony of a defense expert who says Couch's wealthy parents coddled him into a sense of irresponsibility. The expert termed the condition "affluenza." (AP Photo/LM Otero)
Fred Couch, father of teenager Ethan Couch, collects his belt after clearing security as he arrives at juvenile court for a hearing about his son's future Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014, in Fort Worth, Texas. A judge on Wednesday ordered Ethan Couch, who was sentenced to 10 years' probation in a drunken-driving crash that killed four people, to go to a rehabilitation facility paid for by his parents. Judge Jean Boyd again decided to give no jail time for Ethan Couch, defense attorney Reagan Wynn and prosecutors told reporters after the hearing, which was closed to the public. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
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Tarrant County prosecutors contended Couch is responsible for his own absence by fleeing to Mexico and fighting his deportation.

Couch was 16 in 2013 when he was tried as a juvenile with a psychiatrist testifying the boy had "affluenza" and his family's wealth had left him so spoiled that it impaired his judgment to tell right from wrong.

The affluenza diagnosis, which is not recognized by the American Psychiatric Association, was widely ridiculed.

Couch and his mother ended up in Mexico in December after a social media video emerged showing him at an alcohol-laden party. The party was likely a violation of the probation deal that kept him out of prison after he was convicted of four counts of intoxication manslaughter.

If Couch is found to have violated his probation and his case is transferred to adult court, he could be held in adult detention for about four months. Another probation violation could bring up to 40 years in prison, legal sources said.

Tonya Couch faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of helping her son flee.

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