'Affluenza' Teen's Family Has History of Legal Woes

Ethan Couch's mom and dad have been in plenty of trouble, too
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 29, 2016 9:41 AM CST
'Affluenza' Teen's Family Has History of Legal Woes
In this file photo from Feb. 5, 2014, Tonya Couch, left, and Fred Couch, parents of Ethan Couch, arrive at juvenile court for a hearing about their son's future in Fort Worth, Texas.   (LM Otero)

Long before Ethan Couch and parents Fred and Tonya became notorious for using an "affluenza" defense in a drunk-driving crash that killed four people, they had multiple run-ins with the law, often flouting authority or relying on personal wealth to get out of trouble, the AP reports. The incidents—totaling at least 20 and dating to at least the late 1980s—ranged from speeding tickets and financial disputes to reckless driving and assault, a review of police and court records shows. Perhaps most disturbingly, court records document an incident in February 2013 when cops found Ethan Couch behind the wheel of a truck in a parking lot, reeking of booze and next to a passed-out, half-naked girl. The reportedly fresh-mouthed teen was let off with a warning and two citations—four months before the fatal crash.

Other incidents:

  • In 1999, Fred Couch punched a supervisor for a contractor that hired his company after the man told his workers to stop using an unsafe table saw, according to an arrest report. Couch drove off; he later received a few days in jail and two years' probation for the assault.
  • In 2009, Fred Couch faced accusations he sexually harassed a female employee, then fired her when she complained. The case settled with undisclosed terms.
  • Tonya Couch faced a 2003 reckless driving case in which court records say she intentionally forced a motorist off the road. She pleaded guilty, was fined, and got probation.
  • In early 2005, she lied about that charge on a form to renew her state nursing license. Regulators found out years later and took action. She failed to show for a 2012 disciplinary hearing and lost the vocational nursing license.
  • Fred Couch was charged in September 2014 with falsely identifying himself as a Lakeside police officer. He has a March 18 court hearing in that case.
  • In early 2015, Tonya Couch was cited after leaving the scene of a minor accident that she caused. Prosecutors later dismissed the case, per court records.
(More Ethan Couch stories.)

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