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A Texas mother charged with helping her teen son escape to Mexico to avoid a probation violation appeared Friday in court, where a judge said he would consider her request to significantly cut her $1 million bail.
Tonya Couch, 48, was brought back to Tarrant County, Texas, this week after her deportation from Mexico, where her son, Ethan Couch, remains in an immigration detention facility. Wearing a yellow jail jumpsuit, she said little at her arraignment. The judge set her bail hearing for Monday afternoon.
Afterwards, Couch's lawyer complained to the judge that Tarrant County Sheriff Dee Anderson had asked Couch questions about her passport, visa and belongings in a courthouse holding cell without an attorney present.
The lawyer, Stephanie Patten, said it was unusual for the sheriff to escort a prisoner to her cell, let alone talk to her. "I don’t think he’s had contact with anyone who’s been arrested ever,” Patten told reporters outside the courtroom.
Patten also said that Couch's bail was way too high. "We think anything $25,000 or under would be fair," she said.
Couch's attorneys also complained Friday that she is being kept in a "super max" section of the jail, something normally reserved for violent offenders.
Couch was charged with hindering the apprehension of a felon after she and her son were arrested last week in Puerto Vallarta, where they had fled as Texas prosecutors investigated whether he had violated his probation for a 2013 drunk-driving car crash that killed four people.
Ethan Couch became notorious during that trial for his lawyers' "affluenza" defense strategy. They argued that he was raised in such a privileged environment that he was unable to distinguish right from wrong. 'Affluenza' is not recognized by the American Psychiatric Association.
Couch, now 18, has picked up a prominent Mexican lawyer who is challenging an attempt by authorities to deport him.