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Monday 19 February 2018

'Affluenza' teenager held at Mexican immigration detention centre

Ethan Couch in custody in Mexico (Jalisco state prosecutor's office/AP)
Ethan Couch in custody in Mexico (Jalisco state prosecutor's office/AP)

A US teenager known for using an "affluenza" defence in a fatal drunken-driving accident is being held at a Mexico City immigration detention centre in one of the capital's poorest areas.

He will likely spend weeks, if not months, at the centre as he appeals deportation.

A Mexican immigration official said a judge has agreed to hear arguments on the affluent young man's appeal, a process that could take weeks or months.

In the meantime, Ethan Couch is being held at the Agujas immigration detention centre, 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 centre's common sleeping areas and bathrooms, and concrete sinks 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 football pitch.

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

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

The teenager's mother, Tonya Couch, was jailed in Los Angeles on Thursday after being deported from Mexico.

Authorities believe Ethan Couch, who received only probation for the crash 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 on Monday after authorities said a phone call for pizza led to their capture in the Mexican resort city of Puerto Vallarta.

Press Association

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