They were bound to clash — the ex-mob prosecutor from New York City and the colorful Texas lawyer whose website says he can do what others can’t.
Their fight club was the renowned Enron prosecutions of the 2000s. The matches pitted a high-powered Justice Department task force, led by Andrew Weissmann, against pricey aggressive defense lawyers such as Houston’s Dan Cogdell.
Mr. Cogdell won the first acquittal in the first Enron trial of five Merrill Lynch managers. He showed that his client, Enron accountant Sheila Kahanek, knew nothing about the suspect deal Mr. Weissmann said was a crime.
Months before the trial, Mr. Cogdell said, Mr. Weissmann treated Ms. Kahanek with kid gloves. He asked her basic fact questions.
But during her last interview, she said, she probably needed an attorney. Mr. Weissmann, who likes to flip the small to turn on the big, told Ms. Kahanek that an attorney would just get in the way, Mr. Cogdell said.
She lawyered up anyway, and the next thing she knew she was indicted.
After a long trial, Mr. Cogdell listened to prosecutor Kathryn Ruemmler’s closing argument. He grew angry. He believed she was misquoting Ms. Kahanek’s trial testimony.
At recess, he confronted spectator Weissmann.
“I just knew that those weren’t her words,” he told The Washington Times. “Ruemmler was being given a script and told what to read from. I walked up to Weissmann after the final argument, and I shook my finger at him. I wagged my finger at him. ‘You should be ashamed of yourself for that.’ Those weren’t Ruemmler’s words. They were Weissmann’s words.”
Mr. Cogdell said he tried to set the record straight during his closing argument. It must have worked. The jury found Ms. Kahanek not guilty.
A few years later, Mr. Cogdell was representing another Enron figure. He learned that Mr. Weissmann had sent his co-counsel a nasty email. The task force director suggested that Mr. Cogdell had betrayed his client’s confidences to a defense attorney for another Enron client.
Mr. Cogdell fired off a letter. He accused Mr. Weissmann of trying to get him kicked off the high-stakes Enron legal game.
“Nothing could be further from the truth and any suggestion is not only without merit it is nothing more than a transparent attempt on your part to ‘disqualify’ a lawyer whom you dislike because of the result your task forced suffered in the Barge case,” Mr. Cogdell wrote to Mr. Weissmann. “I will state what you lack the candor to put in writing — you do not like me. Rest easy, the feeling is mutual.”
He added, “I will avoid commenting at length the literal hypocrisy of the ‘Enron task force’ raising ethical concerns.”