(MEXICO CITY) — A Mexican attorney for “affluenza” teen Ethan Couch says he estimates that the 18-year-old’s deportation to the United States will last “a couple of months,” unless Couch decides not to fight it.
Attorney Fernando Benitez, who says he will meet Couch Tuesday morning, told ABC News that he hopes he can get Couch a hearing by early February, but added that the deportation process could take much longer.
Benitez told ABC News that the deportation was a government attempt to run an end-around the extradition laws — which can take more than a year. However, if Couch decides he doesn’t want to do it, Benitez said he would drop the case and the deportation would proceed immediately.
Couch and his mother, Tonya Couch, 48, were arrested in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, Monday after U.S. Marshals and other American law enforcement agencies had been searching for them for nearly two weeks. Couch was wanted in Texas for an alleged probation violation in a drunk-driving case.
Tonya Couch has since arrived back in the U.S., but her son’s deportation case will go before a judge, who could potentially take a while to make a decision, according to a government official.
The judge’s stay will end only when a federal judge rules and all parties weigh in, Benitez told ABC News.
Benitez told ABC News that, on Tuesday, Couch was in the immigration center van, about to be taken to the airport, when his assistant arrived with the writ of Amparo, staying the deportation, and Couch was taken off the van.
Couch has been staying in the Iztapalapa migrant detention center in Mexico City — not a jail — in open rooms shared with other immigrants, Benitez said.
In 2013, Couch was convicted of four counts of intoxication manslaughter while driving drunk, but was not sentenced to any jail time after an expert witness for the defense team, psychologist Dr. G. Dick Miller, pointed to “affluenza,” a condition he said was caused by Couch’s wealthy upbringing, preventing him from knowing right from wrong. Instead, Couch was given 10 years of probation.
Scott Brown and Wm. Reagan Wynn, attorneys in Texas, released a statement Wednesday saying that because they are not licensed to practice law in Mexico, they assisted the family in finding counsel for Couch in Mexico to ensure that he is treated fairly, in accordance with Mexican law.
“We believe that, until the Mexican Federal Judge enters an appropriate order authorizing it, Ethan will not be returned to the United States,” they said. “We are uncertain how long the legal process in Mexico will take or how it will ultimately be resolved.”
His mother, meanwhile was charged with hindering apprehension of a felon. She was being held at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Downtown Los Angeles, police said, as they wait for Texas authorities to take her home.
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