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‘Affluenza’ teen held at Mexican immigration holding center

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  • Ethan Couch, after he was taken into custody in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico on Dec. 28. U.S. authorities said the Texas teenager serving probation for killing four people in a drunken-driving wreck after invoking an “affluenza” defense, was in custody in Mexico, weeks after he and his mother disappeared. (Mexico’s Jalisco state prosecutor’s office via AP)

MEXICO CITY » A Texas teen known for using an “affluenza” defense in a fatal drunken-driving accident is being held at a Mexico City immigration detention center in one of the capital’s poorest areas, where he will likely spend weeks, if not months, as he appeals deportation.

A Mexican immigration official said today a judge has agreed to hear arguments on the affluent young man’s appeal, a process that could take weeks or months. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he or she was not authorized to be quoted by name.

In the meantime, Ethan Couch is being held at the Agujas immigration detention center, where the official said he will have no special privileges such as the ones high profile criminals can sometimes buy in Mexican prisons.

Couch’s wealthy upbringing may not prepare him for the center’s common sleeping areas and bathrooms, and concrete wash basins for hand-washing clothes.

The white-washed, high-fenced facility usually houses several dozen immigrants, mainly Central Americans.

Couch will sleep on a cot or bunk in a semi-open bedroom shared with two or three other detainees. Unarmed immigration guards patrol the unit, and a closed-circuit camera system is constantly filming in most area other than the common bathrooms. Armed guards are posted at the outside gates and walls.

Along with three meals per day, Couch will have access to watch TV or movies in one of the Spartan common rooms, or go to an outside patio where there is a basketball court and small soccer pitch.

He will have unlimited access to telephones, and access to medical, dental and psychological care.

However, the Mexico City holding center has been the subject of complaints in the past, especially by detainees held there for extended periods of time. Detainees have complained about the quality of the food and harsh discipline.

The teen’s mother, Tonya Couch, was jailed in Los Angeles today after being deported from Mexico.

Authorities believe Ethan Couch, who received only probation for the wreck that killed four people, fled to Mexico with his mother in November as prosecutors investigated whether he had violated that probation.

Both were taken into custody Monday after authorities said a phone call for pizza led to their capture in the Mexican resort city of Puerto Vallarta.

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