Facing a high-profile securities fraud trial that could cost him his job and land him in prison, Attorney General Ken Paxton has enlisted the help of two top Texas attorneys known for their forceful personalities and courtroom successes.
Paxton announced Thursday that he has hired Houston defense attorney Dan Cogdell and Terri Moore of Fort Worth, a criminal defense attorney who spent years as a prosecutor in Tarrant and Dallas counties and also in federal court.
Both have extensive trial experience and are known for their ability to gain the trust and understanding of juries.
“I believe that I have secured a strong and aggressive team of highly competent and respected attorneys,” the first-term attorney general said in a statement. “I am entrusting them to courageously lead this case, fighting for truth and justice.”
In July, Paxton was indicted on three felony charges alleging that he violated state securities laws. He is accused of misleading investors in the McKinney-based technology startup Servergy Inc. and of steering legal clients to a friend’s investment firm without being properly registered with the state.
Paxton, who was elected in November, has pleaded not guilty.
His original attorney, former federal Judge Joe Kendall, stepped down Aug. 27, the day of Paxton’s arraignment in the Fort Worth court of state District Judge George Gallagher.
Gallagher gave Paxton until Sept. 3 to find new representation. Gallagher extended the deadline to Thursday after Paxton was initially unable to secure an attorney.
Moore was a Tarrant County prosecutor from 1987 to 1997. Promoted in 1993 to deputy chief of the criminal section, Moore commanded the gang unit, the juvenile section and four felony courts.
“She did so using salty language and with a go-for-the-jugular attitude,” a Star-Telegram article said.
In those years, she prosecuted 93 cases before juries, losing only four times. And none of those was a capital murder or murder case.
She left to become a federal prosecutor. “She was an assistant U.S. attorney, where she tried the nation’s largest Internet child pornography case. She also prosecuted bank robbers and crooked bankers,” the article said.
After four years, she quit to run as a Democrat for Tarrant County district attorney, challenging her former boss, longtime DA Tim Curry, a Republican. She lost in 2002, ran again in 2006 and lost.
After six years in private criminal defense practice, she returned to prosecution in 2006 when new Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins made her his second-in-command.
According to a Star-Telegram profile when she took the Dallas job:
“… She became almost legendary at the Tarrant County district attorney’s office for her tenacity, brash behavior and ability to rap with gang members while prosecuting ‘ghetto murders.’ She still gets hate mail from those she convicted.
“Dressed in a sharp white linen suit and with an even sharper tongue, Moore said she’s never ‘been accused of being a liberal weenie.’
“It’s like this. When you see me being all mean, OK, it is being mean to some defendant who murdered. Raped. I mean, hurt somebody,” Moore said. She also added that she believes in the death penalty, saying, “Some people need killin’!”
She left the Dallas County DA’s office in 2011 and resumed defense practice in Fort Worth.
Moore declined to comment to the Star-Telegram on Friday.
Special prosecutor Brian Wice, part of a team of three Houston criminal defense attorneys assigned to the case, called Cogdell one of the state’s top lawyers: “Dan’s a great lawyer and a longtime friend, and it’s not a cliche to say he’s an ‘A-list’ lawyer.”
Cogdell, who races motorcycles and was once known for wearing cuff links shaped like buttocks in court, has a forceful personality on and off the job.
Early in his career, he shocked himself with a cattle prod in front of a jury to counter an expert witness’s testimony that it could cause a heart attack.
“I was a big frat boy at UT; in hell week, cattle prods are pretty much normal,” Cogdell told the Houston Chronicle in 2004. “But I did have to practice for about four hours. I’m committed to my clients.”
He has handled more than 300 trials in 16 states and secured several high-profile acquittals in such nationally watched cases as the Enron and Branch Davidian trials.
His successes mean his help will come at a hefty cost, said Austin-based attorney Joseph A. Turner.
“He’s very well-versed on the law and he’s very prepared, which means he’s going to be well-paid,” said Turner, who worked on the Branch Davidian case with Cogdell. “He’s not going to be a cheap lawyer.”
Because the securities case is unrelated to his job as attorney general or as a state lawmaker, Paxton legally may not use his campaign account to pay for his defense.
The defense of other high-profile indictments have cost the accused millions. Rick Perry, who was indicted a year ago, already has spent $2 million.
Paxton’s trial is expected to be document-intensive. During the arraignment, Wice and co-special prosecutor Kent Schaffer said they have amassed 14,000 pages of documents in electronic form and were in the process of converting another 7,000 to 8,000 to digital format.
If convicted, Paxton faces five to 99 years in prison and a $10,000 fine for each of his two first-degree felony charges; his third-degree felony charge of failing to register carries a maximum sentence of 10 years behind bars and a $10,000 fine.
This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.