By Marice Richter
FORT WORTH, Texas (Reuters) - The mother of the Texas “affluenza” teenager had her curfew eased, her attorney said on Monday, in her first court appearance since being charged by a grand jury last month with helping her son flee to Mexico.
Tonya Couch, 49, was indicted by a Tarrant County grand jury on charges of hindering apprehension and money laundering for aiding her son Ethan Couch in violating a probation deal that kept him out for jail for killing four people while driving drunk in 2013.
The curfew easing came at a hearing that lasted a few minutes before a district court judge. Her lawyer said after the session that the change will make it easier for her to find a job. He did not provide other details on the curfew.
Couch, and her son, Ethan, 19, drew international attention last winter after fleeing the United States. He had apparently violated the probation deal that he stay drug- and alcohol-free after the deadly wreck.
At his trial in juvenile court in 2013, a psychologist testified in Ethan Couch’s defense that the then 16-year-old was a victim of “affluenza” and unable to tell right from wrong as a result of being spoiled by his family’s wealth.
The probation deal sparked outrage from critics who ridiculed the affluenza defense and said his family's wealth had helped keep him out of jail.
Tonya Couch was initially charged with aiding her son's flight, a felony that is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. The grand jury last month reaffirmed the original charge and added a second charge of money laundering of $30,000 to $150,000, a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
Couch and her son left Texas after a video surfaced on social media in early December showing Ethan at an alcohol-fueled party, in likely violation of his probation deal.
Mother and son drove in a pickup truck to Puerto Vallarta, where they were caught by Mexican authorities in December after a manhunt of more than two weeks.
She was deported to Texas in January and posted bond after being remanded to Texas authorities.
Ethan Couch is currently serving a nearly two-year jail sentence as a condition of his new probation terms as an adult. His case was transferred from the juvenile to adult supervisory system on his 19th birthday in April.
(Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)