As “affluenza” boy and his mother were caught south of the border Wednesday, once again the loopholes and bias of the United States legal system are making front page news throughout the world.
Ethan Couch’s mother, Tonya was deported from Mexico on Wednesday and sent to a Los Angeles airport as her 18-year-old son – deemed ill of “affluenza” when he killed four people in a drunk driving accident at the age of 16 – was victorious in delaying his extradition, Mexican law enforcement officials told Reuters. His mother is facing a charge of hindering the apprehension of a felon.
According to ABC’s Good Morning America, Couch was granted a three-day stay. A Mexican judge will review his deportation case although it is unclear on how long it will take the judge to do so.
A Mexican law enforcement official told GMA that on Wednesday evening Couch was transferred to a Mexico City jail as his injunction was placed. He had been in custody at a Guadalajara jail.
“We do not know if the Mexicans have the highest priority on this case like we do here in America. It’s on their time schedule, we’ve seen these things happen as quickly as two weeks to two months,” Richard Hunter, of the U.S. Marshals, said at a presser on Wednesday.
Back in 2013, a hired psychologist testified on Couch’s behalf saying that the teen suffered from “affluenza,” a condition which happens to people who are so wealthy and spoiled that they – allegedly –lose sight of what is right and wrong.
Couch was convicted of four counts of intoxication manslaughter and was sentenced to 10 years of probation where he was forbidden from using drugs or drinking alcohol from the 2013 incident in which he was seen on a surveillance camera stealing two cases of beer from a Walmart before speeding off in father’s truck along with several friends.
He was driving about 70 mph in a 40 mph zone when he veered off the road and struck a car that had been stalled, then striking another parked car, causing that car to strike an oncoming car. Four people were killed and nine were injured.
Couch’s blood alcohol content was .24, three times the legal amount. He also tested positive for Valium.
And that was not even his first brush with the law over his drinking. At the age of 15, he was cited for “minor in consumption of alcohol” after a police officer found him drinking in a car with a naked 14-year-old girl who was passed out.
Earlier this month Couch and his mother went missing after a video hit social media of Couch allegedly playing beer-pong with other teen boys, which was a violation of his probation.
He and his mother were staying at a hotel in Puerto Vallarta where he visited a strip club, but was unable to pay the bill, so he had to go wake his mother up to cover the tab, according to the Dallas Morning News.
“This is a family that knows how to game the system and has done so from the start,” said Tarrant County Sheriff Dee Anderson, the county where Couch killed the four people in the drunk driving crash.
Like Anderson points out, navigating the legal system is a “game” in which most of the players don’t have the odds in their favor.
Take for instance the case of Allen Bullock the black 18-year-old from Baltimore, Md., who back in May was slammed with eight counts, including rioting and malicious destruction of property when he smashed an orange traffic cone through the windshield of a vehicle during a Freddie Gray protest.
Unlike Couch, who got off easy with probation, Bullock’s bail was $500,000 – double the amount set for the six cops charged in Gray’s death, who were released on bails of $350,000 and $250,000.
According to an investigation by The Baltimore Sun, Bullock got lucky after his family raised the cash from donations that came in from around the globe. A very different situation from Couch’s “affluenza” case.
“He turned himself in. That’s not even right,” Maurice Hawkins, Bullock’s mother’s fiancée told the daily. “They are trying to make an example out of him. They are trying to say my son started it. He’s 18 years-old. He’s just a teenager.”
But turning himself in is not an option that Couch is taking since he has enough money to avoid doing so.
“They (the Couches) have done everything that they can so far to avoid being accountable, or avoid being brought to justice,” Anderson told Reuters. “Any roadblock they can put in the way, any hurdle, I fully expect that.”
Anderson told the wire service that when Couch does finally arrive back on U.S. soil, he is set to have a hearing at a detention center in the juvenile system. A judge will determine if he will reside in a juvenile detention center or in an adult prison.
“He got a big jump on us because he was gone before any of us knew that he was missing,” Anderson told CBS News.
State Del. Jill P. Carter, a Baltimore Democrat, believes that Bullock’s case is a blatant reminder of how unjust the legal system really is.
“I think the $500,000 he’s released on is an example of the arbitrary and capricious nature of our bail system,” she told The Sun. “It’s an example of the grave disparities in our justice system.”
And then there is the case of the 17-year-old North Carolina teen who is facing jail time for sending his girlfriend a photo of his genitals.
Cormega Copening may go to prison for 10 years. He is facing five counts of second-degree and third-degree sexual exploitation because when he was 16, according to The Independent, he and his girlfriend sent nudes to each other.
Sgt. Swain, who works in North Carolina’s Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office, says in North Carolina swapping sexy pics with someone who is under 18 – even if the other person is also a minor – automatically is a crime and puts you at risk of going to the slammer for at least “a minimum, with no prior history, a felony charge means two years in prison.”
“If you are under the age of 18 and disseminate pictures of yourself or receive pictures of someone under that age, it falls under the sexual exploitation of minors’ statue,” Swain told the Independent in North Carolina.
“There are different ages for different things. You need to be 21 to drink alcohol. It’s just the way the law is written.”
And obviously, there are different rules for rich people, even if it’s not written in the law.