FORT WORTH, Texas – The mother of “affluenza” teen Ethan Couch walked out of prison on Tuesday morning. Tonya Couch posted bond Monday night after a judge agreed to significantly lower the amount to just $75,000, reports CBS DFW.
It had initially been set at $1 million.
However, the 48-year-old mother will not be going straight home. Judge Wayne Salvant had several conditions for Couch, including a required ankle bracelet. She will reportedly be fitted with that monitor before leaving custody. Couch must also make weekly visits with the Community Supervisions and Corrections Department of Tarrant County, and cannot consume alcoholic beverages or use social media.
Couch didn’t speak as she was escorted down the street by deputies on her way to get the ankle monitor, the station reported.
Salvant was critical of the high bond being used solely to keep Couch locked up. “You cannot set a bail just to keep someone in jail,” Salvant said. Officials in Tarrant County said that the bond amount was set so high because they feared that Couch was a flight risk.
Couch was charged with hindering the apprehension of a felon, after she was found with her son, Ethan, in Puerto Vallarta last month. Authorities in Tarrant County had been searching for the duo since Ethan Couch missed a Dec. 3 probation appointment.
Tonya Couch’s attorneys argued in court Monday that her initial bond of $1 million was far too high for someone charged with hindering apprehension. Prosecutors argued that the high bond was necessary to ensure that Tonya Couch will follow the rules of pretrial release, but Judge Salvant seemed to agree with her defense.
“We’re talking about a third degree felony here, we’re not talking about a capital murder,” Salvant said.
Tonya Couch is expected to plea not guilty in the case. Ethan Couch is being held in a Mexico City immigration detention center, and his attorney has indicated that the teen may fight efforts to deport him from Mexico. Authorities believe Ethan and Tonya Couch drove the truck to Mexico.
Ethan Couch’s case drew national attention and derision when he was sentenced to 10 years’ probation for a 2013 drunken driving wreck that killed four people and injured several others, including passengers in his pickup truck.
A defense witness argued that Couch had been coddled by his wealthy parents, a condition the expert called “affluenza.” The condition is not recognized as a medical diagnosis by the American Psychiatric Association, and its invocation drew ridicule.
Law enforcement officials say Tonya, 48, and Ethan, 18, fled to Mexico after a video surfaced that appeared to show the teen at a party drinking alcohol. If he was drinking, it would violate his probation and could lead to jail time.
Law enforcement officials believe the mother and son had a going away party shortly before driving across the border in her pickup truck, making their way to Puerto Vallarta. They were first tracked to a resort condominium after ordering pizza. They had moved on by the time authorities arrived, but a witness directed police to an apartment in Puerto Vallarta’s old town.
When they were arrested, authorities said Ethan Couch appeared to have tried to disguise himself by dying his blond hair black and his beard brown.
According to the arrest warrant affidavit, Ethan Couch was “scared” after the video surfaced and did not respond to a Dec. 3 call from his probation officer to report for a drug test. He also did not appear for a scheduled meeting with the officer on Dec. 10.
A search warrant of bank and phone records found Tonya Couch had withdrawn $30,000 from a personal account and there was no other activity after Dec. 3. That day she also called her husband Fred Couch to say he would never see them again.
Authorities have previously said they had no evidence Fred Couch was involved in helping Tonya and Ethan Couch flee.