Do you want a wealthy retirement without worrying about money? Welcome to “Retire in Texas”, where you will discover how to enjoy your faith, your family, and your freedom in the State of Texas—and, now, here's your host, financial advisor, author, and all-around good Texan, Darryl Lyons.
Darryl: Hey, this is Darryl Lyons, and you're listening to Retire in Texas. Thanks for tuning in. I have to make sure I give you our legal disclosure. This information is intended for, specifically, a general audience, and so any tax or legal, or specific investment advice, it's not intended for this show, so be sure to see your specialist to get the information that you need.
Now, with all that being said, I want to make sure that you know that you can text the word “Texas” to the number 74868. That's “Texas” to 74868. We'll have one of our advisors connect with you. It's really a 15-minute no-cost, no-threat conversation to talk about money. [01:04.5]
Okay, I'm excited today because I have a friend who is my enemy. Now he's my friend. Now, are you my enemy today or my friend?
Nico: When are we ever enemies, guy? What do you mean?
Darryl: No, I'm just messing with you, man. No, we've always been friends.
Nico: Oh man, definitely.
Darryl: Going back to St. Mary's University undergraduate days, so we have a long history of hanging out, just fellowshipping. You're a dear friend, Nico, so I'm honored to have you here.
Nico: Very mutual, Darryl. Thank you for having me on.
Darryl: There's a lot to cover in 20 minutes and we're not going to be able to get to all of it. First off, you do have a Netflix appearance. What is it, a show, right?
Nico: It's not our show. It was a program. It's called I Am a Killer. It started off in Europe. There's two seasons, and so one of the seasons, Season 1, Episode 2 is specifically on my brother's murder, as you know, Darryl.
Nico: And so my brother, in 1996, August 15, to be specific, was taken from us in a carjacking at my parents' house. We were inside. We walked out minutes later. I think they were intrigued by the fact that, number one, they were doing this series where they were following people that are on death row or they were on death row, but they wanted to tell the backstory and they were intrigued. At the time, I was serving in San Antonio, we call it Bexar County. I'm not sure how far your audience is, if it's local or-- [02:14.8]
Darryl: That's good. Yeah.
Nico: In Bexar County as the district attorney. I was the elected district attorney and they were under the false impression that I could actually do something to get the driver, not the shooter. The driver also got the death penalty along with the shooter in my brother's situation. The governor at the time commuted the sentence, reduced it from death to life, and life back then was a mandatory 40 years. Now, today, under the current law, it's life, meaning that you leave this earth from prison. But back then it was mandatory 40 years.
There's a whole story behind that, Darryl. I know that's not the subject of our talk today about that journey, but that's what this show's about, and there was a lot of prayer and discernment and consideration that I had to look at before I said yes because I thought it was another organization from Europe. [03:03.0]
I mean, I vetted them out for weeks, and many, a number of phone calls and conversations with them, and it was a leap of faith, man. I just prayed about it and they gave me assurances that it was not going to be a one-sided story, and that I think they honored it for the most part. It's 55 minutes, there's only so much you can put in there. They were here for months doing research and it's pretty in-depth. I think you've seen it. Many people have.
But it was interesting and I'm glad it's out there because I think he gives a full story. There's a lot of misinformation around that situation and these individuals involved in my brother's murder. But, yeah, so it's not my show. We are one of the episodes within a two-series show.
Darryl: Called what again?
Nico: I Am a Killer. That's the name of the show.
Darryl: I Am a Killer. Did you also have some screen time with vaccinations? What was that? Was that on Netflix also?
Nico: No, that was on another, it's called Vaxxed, V-A-X-X- E-D. It's a docu-series. We were in the second one, my wife and I. But the thing that caused the global stir, and I think that's what you're alluding to, was when I was district attorney, I was sitting in my office, not this one, when I was actually in office, and we have a son, for those that don't know, on the spectrum of autism and he was not born that way, and so I made the controversial statement. At the time, it was very controversial. [04:19.0]
Nico: I mean, some people, it still is. But I said, “Yeah, I'm Nico. Nico LaHood. I'm the San Antonio District Attorney,” something like that. You can find it on YouTube. “And I'm here to say that vaccines can and do cause autism.” That literal 10-second blurb went global and, of course, the backlash from certain organizations and people or whatever. But, hey, man, I mean, I owe it to my son not to be scared and to tell his story. He is moderate on the spectrum. Darryl, you've seen and you know him.
Darryl: Yeah, yeah.
Nico: And he's not totally verbal. He says words, not phrases. My wife doesn't like me to say nonverbal because as the Lord leads and anything can happen, so I don't want to speak that over him, but he doesn't communicate the way we normally do. But he stamps. There’s the sensory integration stuff, but he is moderate versus severe and then high-functioning. He's kind of in the middle. [05:08.2]
So, it's been a loving-- It's been a labor of love. It's challenging with the child on the spectrum, as we've talked about before. But, man, our son, Michael, has taught my wife and I, and let me speak for me because I'm a flawed individual wrapped in this crap called flesh, but I love Jesus. I've submitted my life to him. But Michael, other than Christ and my biblical teachings and studying, has been the greatest teacher in my life. I am a better human being. I'm a better man. I'm a better husband. I think I was a better district attorney. I'm a better lawyer. Everything because of not only Christ, but of Michael.
Darryl: We bounced around, real quick. I threw our audience into the fire here, which is cool, but I wanted to tease them out to help them capture the essence of who you are a little bit with this Netflix series along with Vaxxed that were a couple points of publicity. But let's take us back a little bit. You're a San Antonio native, right? You had how many brothers and sisters growing up? [06:02.7]
Nico: I was in the middle. I am the middle of three boys.
Darryl: Okay, yeah. Then what did your parents do?
Nico: My pop is retired now. He's 85 years old. He's still with us, thank God. But he was a lawyer. He served in the Army, two years active, 22 years, I think, reserved. He retired as a light bird lieutenant colonel.
Nico: And my mom both worked harder than anybody. She was a housewife and she was a homemaker, and she raised us and, of course, provided for us and nurtured us, and so they're both still with us on this side of heaven.
Darryl: Yeah, that's actually amazing. What would you describe it, kind of a middle class?
Nico: It was upper middle class maybe. My mom grew up on the south side, though, my pop on the west side, so they did not come from much. My pop is first generation here.
Darryl: Real quick. Those that aren't listening in San Antonio, the South Side and the West Side and the East Side and the North Side in San Antonio are very distinct, and you might even think the South Side and West Side are similar because of the race. You think of the East Side, you kind of think of an African-American community. But the South Side and West Side, even though they are predominantly Hispanic, generally lower income, higher teenage pregnancy, higher crime, we know all that, but they are distinct in their culture, so West Side and the South Side are different people. [07:07.5]
Nico: Yeah, they are. I mean, a lot of traditional values, and then things are changing, obviously. There's a struggle in that world and we can do another podcast just on that, very vocal about that and advocacy. But, yes, very traditional families, a lot of faith, family.
Nico: Fellowship, friendship, a lot. Yes, but lower income. My mom came from very, very, very, very modest means. My pop was a first-generation Lebanese, American, but Lebanese descent.
Nico: His daddy came over from Lebanon, my grandpa, and got stuck here during the war, and then had my pop and then they grew a family here and they started selling produce before H-E-B.
Darryl: Okay. We've got to chat about this offline because my grandparents, we could trace it back and I bet they bumped around in that part of the city of San Antonio. But your mom was Hispanic, your dad was Lebanese, right?
Nico: They still are.
Darryl: They still are.
Nico: In case you forgot.
Darryl: I think it's really cool that they're alive. I mean, that's a blessing. [08:01.0]
Nico: You know it’s a blessing.
Darryl: That is a blessing.
Nico: A blessing. When Mike passed—again, this is another podcast—I was angry at God. I was angry at the world. I held God in contempt, but I took it out on everybody else, but I remember in my confusion, and lost, I was stuck in the prison of unforgiveness. I remember having a conversation with God, not in submission, in defiance, but I did say this. I remember it and I don't remember exactly when or what, but it was I said, “If you let me practice law with my pop and if you let my parents see their grandchildren, I’ll serve you for the rest of my life.”
And I will tell you, I practiced law with my pop for six years before he took the bench because one of the things in his resume was he was a county court judge and so he took the bench, but for six years, I saw him every day, saw every one of my jury trials, all that stuff. They've seen now, we have four children. My brother, Mark, has four children. So, they've seen eight of their grandchildren, so God is over delivered as he always does, so I have kept my word, I’ve served in for many years now.
Darryl: Showing you favor and your children, and your children's children. Now, have you always had a strong faith like this or did it develop at a certain point in your life? [09:04.4]
Nico: No, I definitely didn't live, because part of my testimony also, I don't know if you want to get into this, was when I was young and stupid, I was arrested for selling drugs, as you know. You know this.
Darryl: Yeah, yeah.
Nico: My testimony, I’ve done prison ministry, halfway house ministry. I have a passion for men, and they're lost and do not walk in their biblical manhood, and families. The nuclear family is critical to me and to God, and I think to our society. But that's part of my journey also, going through that experience, and so I was not always walking with the Lord. I grew up denominationally Catholic, had no relationship, and as I’ve often said, rules without relationship breeds rebellion. I capitalize .
Darryl: Why don't you say that again?
Nico: Rules without relationship breeds rebellion.
Nico: And I was the poster boy for the rebellion part. So, I love the before and after, the B.C.
Darryl: Yeah, that's right.
Nico: Before Christ versus after, and so that's why I'm so passionate about our faith and our worldview because it's not goofy, it's not kooky. I'm an evidence guy. It's very evidence-driven, because I needed it. When I tripped over Jesus, I always tell people because I wasn't looking for him, I wanted to know who I tripped over, and so I did a very deep dive into the credibility of Christianity versus other worldviews. [10:14.8]
Darryl: I may get to that, I may not, because I want to stick to your life story, even though I'd love to talk about that, and I'm really proud that you're leading a church. Now, you're not leading a church, but you've been leading a body of men, a group of men, which the church is the body of Christ.
Darryl: And so you've been leading a group of men for how many years now? That range from 20 to 50, any given weekday?
Nico: Eight. We've had everyone from former bikers to former Aryan Brotherhood to Bandidos, you name it. Doctors, lawyers, carpenters, AC techs, everything. Uber drivers. We're on our 13th year. Every week I facilitated a Bible study for men.
Darryl: It's really fascinating, because there's many churches, many churches that have been intentional about building steeples that haven't sustained the momentum that you've had, and you've just been a faithful steward saying, “Okay, I don't need a hundred. Whoever shows up this week, I'm good.” [11:07.8]
Nico: One or 1 million. I tell people, you're going to get the same message. Now, of course, it's a raw message. I just believe that our faith needs to be authentic.
Nico: I believe you have to work really hard to make that collection of books, that library of books that we call the Bible, those 66 books boring, and they're anything but PG and G-rated because they're dealing with people wrapped in flesh, dealing with life and are flawed, and our God has got to work all that out and so it's not pretty. So, if I expect these men to actually live out this worldview and put on the lenses of a Bible and not take them off or take them off as little as possible, then I need to make sure that the Bible makes sense to them and that God's word makes sense to them, and it's not something that they have to apply. It's something that they have this renewed mind, Romans 12:2, and so we have raw conversations, and so it's not a Bible study just for anybody.
Darryl: Yeah, I understand. Just to provide clarity, do you still do the R-rated Christianity podcast?
Nico: We do.
Darryl: Okay. That podcast has a lot of colorful language in it. [12:03.0]
Nico: I don't drop F-bombs because I know my audience and I understand what Ephesians 4:29 says, to consider the audience, and when I'm behind the pulpit and I’ve had the pleasure of talking in many churches. I just did this last weekend at CBC and, of course, I do it different. I understand my audience. But it does, it does have some language, some slang words, so to speak. It's just I want people to know that we're raw or real. That's what the R stands for.
Nico: But, ultimately, that raw and real conversation needs to drive someone to a redemptive relationship or the first century Jew named Jesus and that changes everything at that point.
Darryl: Yeah, and then the second platform, or second, it's really the third, I don't know how many platforms you have to be able to share your love of Christ, but there's a lot of different platforms. You have the Bible study. You have R-Rated Christianity and then you also have Sidebar. Tell the audience what Sidebar is.
Nico: When I got out of office and I was back in private practice, I was looking to market this. Whether people think you're good or not good at what you do, if no one knows how to find you, then you're the best hidden thing out there, whatever you're selling or doing. [13:03.4]
So, I started working on marketing. One of the things we did was we used radio at one point and part of the package was, I remember the lady, the vice president, said, “Nico, I love our conversations ,” because you know me, you don't have to prompt me too much where I talk about life and opinions and biblical, understanding Christ.
Nico: And it was just real, and she goes, “I love it. It makes sense. We should try to put something in. You should do a radio show and you sponsor it. LaHood Norton Law Group sponsors it. It's your hour and you do this, and you can do whatever you want, talk about whatever you want maybe.” So, long story short, we put it in there.
It quickly turned from a way to market the law firm to just the current events, a way of handling whatever was happening. We handled current events. I've brought on a dear friend of mine who has joined me and partnered with me in ministry and apologetics.
For those that don't know what apologetics is, it comes from the Greek word “apologia”. It can answer a defense why you believe in whatever you believe in, and so we have an apologetics ministry, so to speak, in defending the Christian ideology and the biblical ideology. [14:07.0]
George came on because he's a chemist by trade. He's a scientist, a scholar. I mean, he worked for a pharmaceutical company, believe it or not, there's a long story behind that. I brought him on as an expert, so to speak, to talk about studies and personal protection equipment, and vaccines and viral loads and bacterial loads and stat count, and then he got stuck, so he has been with us for two years now.
Karen and I, our co-host, have been doing it for the first year by ourselves. George jumped on about two years ago and we've been doing this for over three years now. It’s grown into something where we just challenge people to critically think, Darryl, meaning spar with ideas in your mind, don't just be a sheep. Have your own thoughts. Think about it. Challenge. Ask questions. We're huge-- We hate censorship, and that's a strong word, I do hate censorship. I don't use that lightly, and we just encourage people to think, and whatever conclusion you come to, you should be able to defend why you're there, so we really push people on the why. [14:59.8]
Darryl: I kind of went a couple different directions here, but very intentional and the show is Retire in Texas. We have a lot of people that listen to the show all around the country and it's amazing how many people tell me they're listening now, and that's encouraging. I want to thank those that are listening. I want to encourage you to reach out to me. You can send me an email, tell me what you want to hear, give feedback, firstname.lastname@example.org.
But the reason I mention that is because I do want to shift to the purpose of the show, which is Retire in Texas. You retired as a district attorney. Now, I'm saying retired. The biblical idea of retirement really doesn't exist. There's references and inferences to retirement, but you effectively retired from a public service job, so let's talk about that specifically. In the district attorney role, how long were you there? Generally, do you get paid a lot of money to do that?
Nico: It depends on what you define as a lot of money, because everybody's like so people say, “Sure. Healthy? I eat healthy.” What does that mean, right?
Nico: And they don’t. So, a lot of money. It got decent money for a public servant, but not to the potential in private practice.
Darryl: Yeah, that's what I was thinking, relative to your private practice potential. [16:02.5]
Nico: No, no, and then there's no write offs because you're not in a business, you're in service, so you don't write off anything. Even the benefits of the appropriate tax benefits of writing off your expenses in a business, you don't get as a public servant, so all that adds up, too, you'd be surprised. No, it wasn't anywhere close to what you can do in private practice.
Darryl: How long were you doing the district attorney?
Nico: Four years. I was elected four years. I ran the time before. It didn't work out. I mean, you're talking about a former drug dealer, they came after me, and you get the story of redemption the first time. But it was kind of me letting people know. I mean, I was known in this community, but not that. Bexar County is county.
Darryl: Oh yeah.
Nico: And I didn't think I was going to run again, and then, of course, the Lord called me off the bench, and so I did it and then we were successful, and I'm very proud of the work that we did in office for those four years.
Darryl: What were you most proud of? Is there anything specific?
Nico: Yeah, the culture. I could give you Genene Jones’ case. Here's a woman that has been suspected of over 65, 60 to 65 baby deaths. She was convicted in Kerrville. She was [convicted] of a baby death, was given 30 years back then, and then she was convicted here of injury to a child causing serious bodily injury. The baby did not pass away, thank God, but the judge mistakenly ran them concurrent. So, she was going to get out because of old laws when it comes to parole. She was getting out. [17:17.4]
Two DAs before me said there's nothing we can do, this is an old case. She's getting out. While I was in office, we have her phone records, she was making plans on how she was going to get out. When I was campaigning. I said, “Look, I don't know what can be done. I haven't seen the evidence and it's a 30-year-old case, but I promise you, we'll do everything we can to make sure that woman stays behind bars and meets the Lord from prison.” And we did that.
I assigned it to now one of my law partners, Jason Goss, one of the best lawyers I’ve ever worked with on either side of the bar, and he took 54 boxes home and he was a court chief and he did this on the side. We came back after thorough investigation and putting a team on. It was five new murder indictments and the families were in tears. It was bittersweet. That's a case I can tell you.
Darryl: Yeah, yeah.
Nico: But, overall, the culture, people, I believe in enjoying serving the public. They enjoyed seeking justice. They took pride in their work and micromanaged people. There's 500 people in that office, 200 lawyers. That was the law firm that I was running at the time or leading, and I led by example, I hope or believe, and so I set the culture of justice. [18:17.9]
As a matter of fact, you can't see-- There you can. That was in my office back there. I keep it here. It says, “Do what's right, not what's easy.” Politically correct. We were seeking justice and we're doing the best for the community and the person accused, and we have to put all that together. It's a very elusive concept, that, that concept of justice.
Darryl: Tell me about how you were able to transition. Just keep it general because I don't need to know any specifics on financially transitioning and managing your identity. You were a district attorney. Now you're going to go back into private practice. How did you manage both of those two things?
Nico: I'll do the identity first because my identity, and I know this is such a Christianese phrase, right, I get it, but it was in Christ. I mean, I was not the DA. I happened to be the DA. That's a difference.
Darryl: Understood, yeah. [18:59.0]
Nico: Many people run for office. They get that robe syndrome, that senator syndrome, that congressman or congresswoman syndrome, that DA syndrome, that judge [syndrome]. I think the Lord prepared me going into it. I said, “Look, I am a follower of Jesus Christ and the son of God. I'm an American. I'm a husband. I'm a daddy. I happen to be the district attorney of Lebanese-Mexican descent.” That's the order of importance, and so that was the way I lived my life. That's the way I led the office. It wasn't about my identity as I transitioned out at all, for me, at least. For a lot of people, I know it is, but for me it wasn't.
Nico: I went through a lot of crap before that to kind of prepare me for that as the Lord does what he does. That was one thing. Financially, I was so focused on that that I did not count the cost going into office. When people go into office from the private world, I tell them, “What debt do you have? What's your budget? What is the position paying? What were your write offs that you're used to? What do you think you have to do now? Do you like to vacation? How are you going to plan for that? Are you going to do without it? What are you going to do?” It's just counting the cost, as Luke says, right? I didn't do that. [19:59.2]
When I got out of office, I was in tremendous debt, but as you and I know, I stumbled across Dave Ramsey. I had heard of him, but I kind of wrote him off, because I think years ago, I'm just trying to be transparent and honest, if I can remember, I must have run into him, meaning on a video while he was on one of his famous rants. “You're stupid. You're freaking stupid. Alright, --”
Darryl: “Sell the car.”
Nico: Yes, so he goes, “Stupid, 500 freaking stupid.” I said, first of all, you don't want to say “freaking.” Okay, number two, and I’d just think, man, this guy is goofy. I said, “Forget about it. I don't want to listen to this guy. Okay, get free. I got it.” Man, there's so much wisdom in what he teaches.
This time around, a buddy of mine talked about him. I said, “I'm going to do it,” so Doug and I did a course that we saw at my friend's house on video. It was X amount of weeks. We started applying the baby steps and then just working from there. There was an old property. We had two properties at the time and I was planning, strategizing. It was an interesting, painful process at times, but it was a blessing in the end. It was a good result. [21:01.6]
Darryl: Two more questions and I hate that we have to cut it short, but what does the next chapter look like for you, five, 10 years?
Nico: Hopefully, be on this side of heaven, number one. Can't do anything if you're not …
Nico: I know I'm going to heaven. I just don't want to go today. That's why I'm so, as you know--
Darryl: You take care of your body.
Nico: What I eat.
Darryl: I still think you need more sleep, but that’s …
Nico: No, I'm not going to argue that one. I'm working on that one. But you're right, I'm going to work on that one.
Darryl: But, hey, you take care of your body. I don't know, you've got to be in the top five and I know a lot of people that are disciplined that take care of their bodies, so you inspire me to make sure that I'm taking care of my body.
Nico: I just turned 50 three weeks ago, and so it matters to me, and God willing, I want 40 more years, because I do. Ninety is a good age to me, but I want to be a healthy 90, not a pain for anybody, so I'm just sowing into my health as an act of worship. That's the way I look at it.
Darryl: Yep. Love it.
Nico: And there's a long story behind that for another time. The next year, I want to grow the firm. I do believe that there's public services in the next 10 years. I don't know what it's going to look like. I do not believe, and I'm always going to be obedient, I do not believe it will mean shutting down my law practice. [22:03.2]
So, I don't believe it will be any position that I would be interested in that would mean I have to shut down my law practice, because, again, I mean, this one, this time we've been blessed and we have six lawyers, seven with David “of Counsel.” I love working with the people. All of us used to be high-level prosecutors, which makes it unique, but it’s a big responsibility. I have to think about other families, too. It's not just about me.
So, God willing, to grow the firm, I'd like three more lawyers and getting into a couple of different areas of law, even though we specialize in criminal trial work, criminal defense, state and federal. But, ministry, Darryl, you know my heart. My heart is men and marriages and kids, young people. The millennial group, 4 percent has a biblical worldview, the statistical , even for adults, by the way.
Darryl: Wait till God redeems that.
Nico: I mean, but you can't sit around.
Nico: I mean, you just can’t pause. I’ve got to work and so we're going to go out there and do our part. Matthew 28:19 is the specific call on us to duty to go out and make disciples of all men, “teaching them to obey all that I’ve commanded,” right? [23:03.4]
I’ve got to do that in a practical way, in a realistic way, and an uncompromising way. It's hard. How do you be uncompromising, but then also be practical? And I always tell people truth without grace comes across harsh, but grace without truth is deception, and the only way you merge the two is through the Holy Spirit and just some wise study and practice on how you handle it. I believe that's one of my strengths, and so, really, if I could talk to people full time, it'd be great. We're working on a book, as you know, that would also be out by the end of this year or early next year called R-Rated Christianity, just couldn't get away from the title.
Darryl: Yeah, it’s good.
Nico: It just really reflects my life and my journey with Jesus, and I don't know, I'm just going to be obedient. I'm really focused on being obedient, so whether that means some type of position that means I can serve, but also keep my firm, of course, never losing focus on my wife. I'm married up, she's way too good for me and honored to be her husband, and then our four children. Of course, Michael needs special attention at times because he's on the spectrum, so there's a lot going on. That's why I don't have a lot of sleep, but there's plenty of time to be with Jesus later on. [24:08.4]
Darryl: There'll be an opportunity. I know the Lord is just orchestrating things in the background, whether it's public service or public profile, but it'll be one of the two, I’m sure.
Nico: As the Lord leads, as I always say. I just want to be obedient. I don't want it to be about me. I always direct people back to Christ and I want to brag on him. Scripture says that in Galatians, but I just want to brag about him. I want to show people that following Jesus, you don't have to be some kooky weirdo. Man, he hung around a bunch of raw people and there's a real life to live abundantly, if we're following Jesus.
Darryl: Last question, what's your favorite salsa?
Nico: I mean, I like spicy stuff, so I don't like green salsas. I like a tomato-based salsa. Then my wife is from Mexico, so she's from a state called Sinaloa, a town called Los Mochis, and so when I said pico de gallo, when we first started dating almost 17 years ago, she thinks that's salsa fresca, and I said, “No, that's pico de gallo.” No, pico de gallo where they're from has fruit and mangoes, and so it’s a different definition. It depends on what your definitions are, back to definitions, brother. I like a tomato-based one. [25:09.6]
Darryl: Yeah, very cool. Hey, look, you know I love you like a brother.
Nico: We love you, brother.
Darryl: We've enjoyed doing life. We text each other almost every other day, and sometimes it's just bantering, sometimes it's real stuff. I appreciate you taking time out and jumping on the show, and we'll have to do it again.
Nico: Anytime, brother. God bless you and God bless your audience.
Darryl: Thank you very much. Thanks again for staying to the end of Retire in Texas. Again, if you need to speak to an advisor, text 74868 and just put in the text “Texas”, and then remember, think long term. Have a great day.
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