Ethan Couch’s request to have state District Judge Wayne Salvant removed from his case, which could have lead to the teen’s release from jail, has been denied, according to court records.
Judge David Evans, presiding judge of the Eighth Administrative Judicial Region, heard arguments from Couch’s attorneys and prosecutors earlier this week, and denied Couch’s motion in a court filing Thursday afternoon.
In a hearing Tuesday, Couch’s attorneys argued that Salvant — a criminal court judge who in April sent Couch to jail for 720 days as a new condition of his probation — has no authority over Couch because the teen’s case should be considered a civil case.
The attorneys also argued that Salvant has a financial interest in Couch’s case because Couch could sue the judge for wrongful incarceration.
But prosecutor Richard Alpert told Evans that Couch’s case “ceased to be a civil case when it was transferred from juvenile to felony court. There’s no disputing that.”
Alpert called the defense’s argument about a possible lawsuit a “novel theory.” He said, “Their argument is based on a hypothetical argument that they may sue the judge. It just doesn’t make any sense.”
Couch, 19, is serving 10 years of probation for killing four people in a 2013 drunken-driving crash in southern Tarrant County. The case got national attention after a witness at his trial said he suffered from “affluenza,” meaning that he couldn’t tell right from wrong because of his affluent upbringing.
Late last year, he skipped a probation appointment and fled to Mexico with his mother. The two were arrested weeks later in the beach town of Puerto Vallarta. Couch has remained in Tarrant County custody since January.
His case was transferred from juvenile court to adult court in April, when he turned 19. His case was randomly assigned to Salvant.
Tonya Couch, his mother, is awaiting trial on charges related to her son’s flight to Mexico. She was indicted earlier this year on charges of hindering the apprehension of a fugitive and money laundering.