A man accused of cattle theft was found guilty Thursday and sentenced to spend 20 years in prison. A Smith County jury in the 7th District Court convicted the Henderson County man.
It's a case that could set a statewide precedent because “everyone will be watching,” Richard Vance, felony prosecutor, said, referring to the man's other charges across the state.
Curry was charged with cattle theft in connection with the December 2008 purchase of cattle from Danny Fountain, of Bullard. He was accused of writing a bad check in that transaction.
Shortly after the jury left the courtroom to deliberate Curry's punishment, his father, Donald Curry, confronted Vance. The senior Curry told Vance that he hoped he was proud of himself and that he thought Vance acted like a (derogatory expletive) during his closing arguments to the jury during the punishment phase.
“His mother has had a stroke, and we did the best we could for him,” Donald Curry said to Vance.
The younger Curry also was convicted in a federal court in Lubbock and served 18 months in federal prison on bank fraud and aiding and abetting charges, Vance said.
During the punishment phase of the trial, Hank Gilbert, of Whitehouse, testified that Curry wrote a $10,000 check that bounced in the purchase of some cattle from the East Texas Junior Invitational Livestock Expo, a nonprofit livestock show for high school students. The expo, which since has closed, provided college scholarships for high school seniors, Gilbert testified.
“This has had a tremendous effect — when it bounced, my wife and I had to pay the cost of the scholarships,” Gilbert told the jury. Gilbert testified that part of the reason for the expo having to shut down was because of the bad check Curry wrote.
Rusty Goforth, who owns a feed store in Mineola, testified that he had to borrow money to continue to run his business because Curry wrote a $22,000 check for feed — the check bounced. “I can't get my feed back now; the cows have eaten it,” Goforth said.
And Joey Thibodeaux, a self-described “working cowboy” from Montague County, told the jury that Curry “wrecked my name and reputation” after Curry did not pay an insufficient check in February 2009.
Thibodeaux testified he wrote a $40,000 postdated check to help a friend who wished to sell some cattle. He said he called his bank to ask them to cover the amount, telling them he soon would have the money to cover the check.
Thibodeaux's bank allowed it, but when Curry wrote a check with insufficient funds, Thibodeaux could not pay the bank, he said.
Thibodeaux then testified that Curry, in turn, sold the cattle to someone else. Curry has criminal charges pending against him from Montague County.
“I don't have those (bank) privileges anymore because someone like you took them from me,” Thibodeaux told Curry from the witness stand.
During closing arguments to the jury, Curry said it was not his intent to harm Danny Fountain. “Things sometimes happen that cause other things not to work out,” Curry said.
In January 2009, Curry wrote a $29,000 check to Fountain for 64 head of cattle. The check bounced several times, and Fountain never received his money or had his cattle returned, he testified on Wednesday.
“You've heard the saying that beauty is only skin deep — well, the facts here are only skin deep, and they haven't been proven,” Curry said to the jury during closing arguments.
Curry called two character witnesses: Julian Berry, who said he performed accounting work for Curry, and Bill Hardin, who said he would continue to do business with Curry only if it were on a cash basis. “I would not take a check from him,” Hardin testified.
However, Berry testified that while Curry's business had a history of “ups and downs” that Curry always had “kept his word with me.”