FORT WORTH - Ethan Couch's case will be transferred to an adult court, judge Tim Menikos ruled in a Tarrant County juvenile court hearing Friday morning.
Couch's case will be transferred by his 19th birthday in April. He will remain in jail until then. He has been in a single cell in adult jail since he returned from Mexico, where he fled with his mother after video surfaced, allegedly showing him violating his probation.
Couch was sentenced to 10 years probation three years ago, after he was convicted of killing four people and severely injuring two others in a deadly drunk driving crash.
The defense claimed Couch had "affluenza," meaning he was too spoiled to understand the consequences of his actions.
Attorneys on both sides said they expected Couch to be transferred to adult court.
The hearing was standing room only.
Those inside included family members of Couch's victims, representatives from Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Couch's father, Fred Couch, and an attorney for Couch's mother.
Couch's mother, Tonya Couch, has been on house arrest since she returned from Mexico.
Sergio Molina, a victim of the 2013 crash who is now confined to a wheelchair and only communicates by moving his eyes, showed up to the juvenile court Friday. He didn't arrive on time to see Ethan Couch.
Molina's brother, Alex Lemus, said his family still needs help.
"Look at my brother," said Lemus. "He’s doing more than 10 years probation."
“We’re going to be there for every step of the way. I think we took a step towards the finish line today,” said Kevin McConnell. His son, Lucas, was injured in the crash. He was in a truck with his youth pastor, Brian Jennings, who was killed.
Couch is scheduled to be on probation until February of 2024.
Couch victim Sergio Molina wheeled into court too late for Ethan to see him. pic.twitter.com/8h4yn8J1eq— Jim Douglas WFAA (@wfaajdouglas) February 19, 2016
"I do believe from seeing him and talking to him that it has become more real to him," said Sheriff Dee Anderson. "I think he always prior to this, he felt like there was not going to be a day of reckoning."
Mothers Against Drunk Driving National President Colleen Sheehey-Church called for prison time before the hearing Friday morning.
"No matter what happens today in this court, we want to see [Ethan] Couch's privilege be turned into prison time," she said during the brief address.Attorneys say he will be sentenced to at least another four months in jail when his case transfers. A judge could expand the sentence to six months as part of new probation conditions. Couch is being held in a single cell in a maximum security jail, with no contact with other inmates.
“I think Ethan understands they’re doing this because it is a high profile case,” said defense attorney Scott Brown. “The sheriff wants to make sure Ethan is protected. He is being treated fairly by the jailers at Lon Evans. He will continue to be polite.”
Molina's mother wanted Ethan to see her son outside the courthouse, but Couch had already gone back to jail.
“I want Ethan Couch to look at my son’s face. To look him in the eyes,“ she said through her son Alex's translation. “I want him to get to know him. I want them to get to know each other.”
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