Getting Their Kicks

Plus: The Father Returns

"It was a New Year's Eve party, all right!" Numic blurts out, laughing. "It just happened!"

Now, nearly two years after the happening, both Numic and Gayler have five championship belts and numerous trophies. Still, they know their future is in boxing, not kickboxing. (Gayler is now Numic's kickboxing coach, though.) They train at the Garland police boxing gym, a part of the spanking new(ish) Garland Police Department. Garland's department belongs to the Police Athletic League, which provides trainers and has local and national competitions. Even though Numic isn't with the department, she and Gayler help the trainers there mentor at-risk kids as part of an anti-gang, learn-to-box program. "They look up to you," Numic says, smiling. "It's wonderful." And although they sometimes get to kickbox in events like Bone Brawl--fight nights sponsored by radio station 93.3-FM The Bone--they know that some day, they will no longer get to kick each other. Only punch each other. And that seems to sadden them.

"We both love kickboxing," Numic says as she picks her championship belts up off the floor and hoists them over her shoulder. "It's our passion. But you have to see what's best for us." --Eric Celeste

Kornelija Numic and Doyle Gayler each hold five kickboxing belts.
Steve Satterwhite
Kornelija Numic and Doyle Gayler each hold five kickboxing belts.
Father Justin Lucio
Tom Jenkins
Father Justin Lucio

The Father Returns

Casita Maria, the troubled nonprofit immigrant counseling group dogged by allegations of mismanagement by its founder, Father Justin Lucio, is reopening with a new name and owner, with help from Lucio.

Early last year, The Dallas Morning News alleged that Lucio and other chief administrators at North Texas' largest nonprofit immigration agency had used the fees that poor immigrants paid to Casita Maria for legal advice and lavished it on themselves. A later investigation by the state attorney general found that although bookkeeping at Casita Maria was shoddy, no one at the nonprofit had knowingly violated any laws (see "The Sins of the Father," by Claiborne Smith, September 23). The state's investigation then piqued the interest of the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, which withdrew Casita Maria's accreditation to counsel immigrants.

Several weeks ago, with dwindling clientele and the BCIS against it, Casita Maria, a sprawling old house in Oak Cliff, was hemorrhaging the last of its cash to pay its staff and debts. A judge in Austin ordered Casita Maria's property to be sold.

Michael Warrior, a young Dallas attorney who has given pro-bono legal advice at Casita Maria, won the auction by bidding $265,000 for Casita Maria's assets (which include the immigrants' case files). But it was Warrior's intention to keep Casita Maria a low-cost organization with a charitable purpose that caused Garrett Vogel, the receiver appointed by the state to manage Casita Maria's finances, to recommend Warrior's bid to the Austin judge. "I want it to go back to the days when immigrants could learn English there," Warrior says. Vogel says that there will be a "memorandum" drawn up between Warrior and the state to ensure the presence of a charitable aspect at the Warrior Law Firm, as Casita Maria will be known.

Of course, it couldn't have hurt Warrior's chances in the bidding process that his financial sponsor, legal partner and business adviser in the endeavor is successful entrepreneur John Harkey, the CEO and chairman of Consolidated Restaurant Operations, the parent company of such restaurants as El Chico and Spaghetti Warehouse.

Lucio was preparing late last week to re-enter Casita Maria when it tentatively opens this week in its new incarnation. Although Lucio hasn't been told by Warrior precisely what his role in the firm will be, he says that "this new era will be an extension of Casita Maria's mission of being available to the poor in whatever problems they face. I'm looking forward to it in the sense that I will have a function in doing work for the poor." Warrior says that Lucio's title might be something like "director of charitable operations."

That scenario has caused no small amount of consternation for Fernando Dubove, an immigration lawyer and the staff attorney at Casita Maria in its final six months. "It's just basically a Trojan horse allowing Lucio to go back in," Dubove says, adding that Warrior "doesn't have the experience to run an organization of that size." Dubove also made a bid to obtain Casita Maria's assets but says that speaking out against Warrior and Lucio isn't sour grapes. "I was late in jumping into that bidding process," he acknowledges. --Claiborne Smith

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