State District Judge Wayne Salvant declined Thursday to revoke Tonya Couch’s bond after prosecutors alleged she violated her bond conditions by possessing or consuming alcohol and possessing a firearm.
Salvant made the ruling at a bond hearing in which the assistant manager of the Eagle’s Nest bar in far north Fort Worth testified that Couch sipped beer there May 20. Salvant indicated he didn’t believe that was enough to revoke bond.
He had the same opinion about testimony that she was carrying a rifle at a gun show last weekend. But Salvant warned her “to use common sense.”
“I think sometimes you use bad judgment,” Salvant told Couch. “People are watching you constantly. ... As you are aware, the eyes of Texas are looking upon you.”
Couch, the mother of “affluenza teen” Ethan Couch, is accused of withdrawing $30,000 from a bank account and fleeing with her son to Mexico after he skipped a probation appointment in 2015. They were arrested a few weeks later in a Mexican resort town and brought back to Texas.
She is charged with money laundering and hindering the apprehension of a felon and has been free on bond since January 2016.
Ethan Couch, 20, killed four people in a drunken-driving wreck in southern Tarrant County in 2013. He received 10 years of probation in the case and is serving time in jail as a condition of his probation.
He first received national attention three years ago 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.
At Tonya Couch’s hearing Thursday, prosecutor Tiffany Burks asked Salvant to take Couch’s bond conditions “seriously” and send her to jail until her trial, scheduled for Oct. 2.
“The court has bond conditions in place for a reason,” Burks told Salvant.
Salvant said there was “no clear evidence” that Couch drank alcohol. The prosecutors’ allegation was based on testimony from Alys Dill, the assistant manager at the Eagle’s Nest, a sports bar and grill near Eagle Mountain Lake.
Dill testified that she saw Couch sip beer at the restaurant May 20. Even if there were more evidence to support the allegation, Salvant said, he didn’t view it as enough to revoke bond.
“I’m not going to put you in jail for a sip,” Salvant told Couch.
Jerry Stringer, who makes custom earplugs and had a booth set up at a Fort Worth gun show Sunday, testified about the gun. Stringer, who is also a Johnson County commissioner, said he saw Couch walking through the gun show with a rifle slung on her shoulder.
Salvant said he might have revoked Couch’s bond if she was seen with a gun outside a gun show. But the circumstances did not warrant punishment, he said.
“I go to the gun show,” Salvant said. “I’m sure everybody in this room has gone to the gun show. We live in Texas.”
After Salvant’s ruling to uphold Couch’s bond, Burks asked him to tighten the conditions by banning her from establishments that sell alcohol and requiring her to wear an alcohol monitor.
Couch’s attorney, Stephanie Patten, said Couch cleans boats at a marina and wouldn’t be able to afford the monitor’s monthly fees.
Salvant declined Burks’ requests but said he wanted Couch to check in with her probation officer more often, on a weekly basis, “just to be on the safe side.”