FORT WORTH, Texas - The mother of a fugitive teen who used an "affluenza" defense after killing four people in a drunken-driving wreck has made an initial appearance in a Texas courtroom on a charge of hindering the apprehension of a felon.
Tarrant County Judge Wayne Salvant advised Tonya Couch of the charge at the hearing Friday.
Her bond was set at $1 million and Tarrant County Sheriff Dee Anderson said she’ll be held in jail over the weekend unless she can make that amount.
Anderson said Couch has complained about the jail accommodations, saying there is too much light and she can’t sleep. But he told her it’s a jail cell, not a resort.
Couch’s attorney Stephanie Patton has requested a bond reduction and the judge agreed to consider the request during a hearing Monday. But he let her know that no matter what the amount is, it will have tough restrictions.
Authorities believe Couch and her 18-year-old son, Ethan Couch, fled Texas in November as prosecutors investigated whether the teenager had violated his probation. A video surfaced that appeared to show him at a party where people were drinking.
The mother and son were arrested in Mexico late last month.
Tonya Couch's attorneys have said she is "eager to have her day in court."
Late Friday they released a scathing statement, faulting Sheriff Anderson for the way he and his department have handled Couch:
"We would like to thank Sheriff Dee Anderson for taking time out of his busy day serving as this county's chief law enforcement officer to personally escort a 5'1", 110 pound handcuffed and leg shackled female who was guarded by at least 2 armed deputies yesterday.
He was also kind enough to make sure she was booked into the "Super Max" unit of the jail, normally reserved for those accused of extremely violent or capital crimes, and then make time to have yet another press conference to update the public on the book in of a woman with no prior criminal convictions accused of a non violent third degree felony.
In our collective 40 plus years of practicing criminal law here in Tarrant County, both as prosecutors or defense attorneys, we have never witnessed an elected official take such a personal interest and escort a suspect. We have also never seen or heard of a sheriff taking the additional unprecedented step that he took earlier today of interrogating her while in custody at court today (surrounded by four deputies) and while clearly represented by counsel, but without her counsel present!
It would of course be the job of the Sheriff to hold press conferences, if necessary, or supervise his or her staff on a day to day basis. However, during a contested election, to piggyback on a case that has drawn extensive media coverage by doing things that have never been done in recent memory on any other case is very troubling.
We would ask now that Ms. Couch is back in Tarrant County, that the process now begin in an orderly and lawful way, as it has for many years in this County without the need to resort to political posturing. We are hopeful that the proceedings will be conducted fairly and lawfully which is a goal we believe the County's law enforcement personnel, judiciary, and Criminal Bar strive to achieve every day and, not just when news cameras appear."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.