Fort Worth

Judge to ‘affluenza’ mom: ‘The eyes of Texas are upon her,’ denies bond

Tonya Couch enters  Criminal District Court No. 2 of the Tarrant County Courthouse for her bond reduction hearing Aug. 20, 2018.
Tonya Couch enters Criminal District Court No. 2 of the Tarrant County Courthouse for her bond reduction hearing Aug. 20, 2018. Special to the Star-Telegram

Judge Wayne Salvant had a few strong words about Tonya Couch — the mother of a teen who caused a drunken driving crash that killed four people and injured several others in 2013 — during a bond reduction hearing on Monday afternoon.

“The eyes of Texas are upon her,” he said.

Couch, 51, is accused of violating the terms of her release from jail by using methamphetamine, according to court documents. She was rearrested in June after making her $75,000 bond in May. She was originally arrested in March when she tested positive for another substance.

Eyes have been on Couch and her son, Ethan Couch, since a witness at his trial said he suffered from “affluenza,” meaning that his affluent upbringing and dysfunctional parents kept him from learning right from wrong. The comment garnered national attention.

But during the Monday afternoon hearing for Tonya Couch, testimony revealed that she failed a urine test on June 1 when she tested positive for meth. A hair follicle test on July 13 came back negative for the narcotic.

Conditions of her bond prohibited her from using or possessing any controlled substances, marijuana or alcohol.

Expert witnesses at the collection and testing facilities said that a negative test following a positive test doesn’t mean the first result was wrong — the result depends on the timing.

The defense argued that the company used to test the urine sample was not accredited by the state at the time of the test. However, they have since received their re-accreditation and the evidence would be admissible in court.

Couch’s attorney filed a motion for Salvant to reinstate her bond.

If Salvant agreed, Couch could have been released on the already posted bond. But he denied the motion.

“She should know better than that,” he said, speaking to Couch’s attorney. “If it tests positive for meth, it’s positive. All I want Mrs. Couch to do is follow rules and regulations. ... I’m sick and tired of coming back and forth, back and forth with Mrs. Couch. I informed her I was going to watch her real close ... but for some strange reason, she just decides to do what she wants to do.”

Couch’s trial on money laundering and hindering the apprehension of a felon is scheduled for November. Salvant said if he were to consider reinstating her bond, he’d need assurances that she wouldn’t use drugs — even if they’re over-the-counter. He said she isn’t a danger to the community, but is a danger to herself.

But prosecutor Tiffany Burks countered that if Couch was released, used meth again and drove, she would be a danger to Tarrant County.

Couch faces charges stemming from accusations that she helped her son Ethan flee to Mexico in 2015.

She is accused of withdrawing $30,000 from a bank account and hiding with him in Mexico after he missed a probation appointment in 2015. Ethan Couch was sentenced to 10 years’ probation in the case but had been jailed for violating the conditions of his probation.

Nichole Manna, 817-390-7684, @NicholeManna

Tonya Couch remains free after she was accused of violating her bond by possessing alcohol and a firearm. Judge Wayne Salvant decided not to revoke the bond and warned her, "the eyes of Texas are upon you." (Star-Telegram/Rodger Mallison)

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