November-December 2011

A few characters I’ve met through TDCAA

Mike Fouts

District Attorney in Haskell, Stonewall, Kent, and Throckmorton ­Counties

I just returned from the Annual Criminal and Civil Law update and, might I add, it was fantastic, as per the custom of TDCAA and Training Director Erik Nielsen—top notch. While I picked up some tidbits I will implement into the prosecution of cases, I also had a magnificent time.

    Each time I receive a notice from Sarah Wolf, our outstanding editor of The Prosecutor, that I need to submit an article, I contemplate something substantive and of a serious nature. I try and try, but nothing comes to mind. That ain’t my style.

    I have written in a previous article about the friendships I have developed through my involvement with TDCAA. I insist on living on the sunny side of life. I don’t take myself or life too seriously, and I gravitate toward people who share my view of the world. On too many occasions to count I have responded to a downer with the classic line from Stripes, “Lighten up, Francis.” Now that you know not to expect anything of significance from this or any other writing of mine, I want to share with you some great memories from TDCAA events past. For the more intellectual crowd, those who long for something deeper, don’t fret—help is on the way! Lee Hon, our esteemed President Elect, will undoubtedly wow you with subjects more polished and mature than mine, but for the moment sit back and enjoy the ride.

    I recently reflected on a few of the many characters, personalities, and friends I have had the immense pleasure of interacting with during my association with TDCAA. Here is an affectionate—but by no means complete—list of some favorites.

Jim Kuboviak, retired County Attorney in Brazos County

If you don’t know Kuboviak, you are missing a treat. It could be my affection for him stems from the fact that he is as large and loud as I—we are kindred spirits, I suppose. How many meetings have I been in with Jim and heard his booming voice shout something extraordinarily funny?

    Years ago at a meeting in Austin, we were scheduled to eat at a restaurant on Town Lake, and we were going to leave the hotel and were arranging rides. Jim said he could take 10 or so with him. At this point I was doing a little math (yeah, I was using my fingers) and thinking, “Ten people? I don’t think so.” Admittedly, most sensible people at this juncture would look for alternative transportation, but not me. I was thinking, I have got to see this, so I immediately said I was going with Kuboviak. Five or six other adventurous souls agreed that they would ride with Jim (still well under Jim’s limit), and he walked off to get his car while we waited under the awning at the hotel. I peered off into the distance and see headlights and something large approaching. Here came Kuboviak, and he was driving a camper. Seriously! I mean, who brings a camper to Austin for a meeting at TDCAA? So we loaded up and headed off to the restaurant with big Jim spinning yarns and negotiating the big rig through traffic. I felt like Cousin Eddie in Christmas Vacation, and I mean that with great affection for Cousin Eddie. Admittedly we were in for a short 10-minute ride, but Kuboviak indulged me by allowing me to take a nap on the way. He did refuse to find me a blankie, though.

Bill Smith, District Judge for the 110th Judicial District and former County Attorney in Briscoe County, and Mike Criswell, County Attorney in Swisher County

Spend a little time with Bill Smith and I guarantee you are going to enjoy yourself. Criswell—well, he is Ed McMahon to Smith’s Johnny Carson. Not the headliner but a vital component of the act. When we had the hurricane Annual in Corpus a few years ago, there was a mandatory evacuation. To make a long story short, to avoid riding out the storm in a random Corpus Christi elementary school gymnasium, as appealing as that sounds, I elected to make my way north and west with Bill Smith, Criswell, and Heath Hemphill, the Coleman County District Attorney. Criswell and myself are dedicated Red Raiders while Bill and Heath are Aggies. Heath agreed we could ride with him only if we would detour through College Station to see the Aggies play Texas State. Not seeing any good options and in keeping with my sense for adventure, I agreed. This plan was hatched at about three Wednesday afternoon. Our plan was to leave early Thursday morning for what we would call Heath and Bill’s pilgrimage to College Station, their virtual Mecca.

    Not having much to do Wednesday evening, we took the opportunity to take in a little greyhound racing at the Corpus Christi dog track. One might think that a Category Five hurricane bearing down upon a city would not have a significant impact on people’s desire to go to the dog track and enjoy some gambling … well, one would be wrong. If I tell you there were only six people at the dog track, I mean there were only six people at the dog track. I can’t overemphasize enough how the odds are affected by placing a two-dollar bet when only six people are betting.

    We woke up the next morning and headed for Aggieland. We made it to Victoria when we hit the traffic. It took five hours to go 30 miles, and I tell you I ran out of Slim Jims two hours into the trip. Thanks to some West Texas resourcefulness, we found a farm-to-market road and left the traffic behind for Aggieland. Five hours in a traffic jam might be too long to have two obnoxious Red Raiders abuse two Aggies from the back seat. I personally don’t think it is too long, but when they kicked me out and told me to walk, obviously there was a difference of opinion. A few “OK, I’ll take that part back”s and we were good again, and as far as I know we all remain good friends to this day.

Karaoke World Championships

My advice to those of the “Keep Austin Weird” persuasion: Don’t expend too much effort keeping Austin weird; it is doing a fine job by itself. I made some reference in another column regarding our fine capital city. I don’t want to imply I don’t like Austin—I do, I love Austin—it’s just that when I am there, like Dorothy, I am keenly aware that we’re not in Kansas anymore.

    Last year at the Elected Prosecutor Conference, after a nice dinner, a few fellow prosecutors and I took the opportunity to attend TDCAA Meeting Planner Manda Helmick’s participation in the finals of the world championship of karaoke. The venue, a dank, cave-like setting on the banks of the Colorado River, only added to the acts. When our group entered, we were met by the entire family Von Trapp about to go on stage in full regalia. That was the opening act, and it only got stranger from there.

    Many, if not all of my group, showed a look of apprehension at the occasion, and had I not been a bit of a Renaissance man I would have undoubtedly been unable to comfort and reassure them that everything would be all right. We enjoyed many performances that frankly you would be unlikely to see in my part of the state, but hey, it was an adventure. And I am more well-rounded for the experience.

    I have only touched on a few of the characters and experiences I have had and look forward to many other adventures with TDCAA and encountering new friends and acquaintances along the way.