Publicity Paul

U.S. Attorney Paul Coggins loves feeding his name to the papers. But what's he done that's news?

And the parts that were relevant?
"The question with the tapes was, 'Did their probative value outweigh the danger of having the case reversed on appeal?' I thought the trial team made the right call on that."

The saga of the tapes continues today. Coggins sent them to the Justice Department's civil rights division earlier this year for lawyers to review whether any of the tapes captured conversations of Anglo school trustees violating the rights of African-Americans on the board.

Coggins says he didn't handle that matter in-house for a number of reasons. "I thought it would be a good idea that people unconnected with the case take a look at the tapes for two, no, three reasons," he says. "First, we had just lost the Peavy case. Two, I had had a longstanding friendship with Sandy Kress, and I didn't want...well, that friendship played a determining role. Third, it made good sense to have Washington look at it because in most civil rights cases, one of the people on the team is from the civil rights division."

Coggins declines to say whether his office is directing an investigation of Dallas city councilman Al Lipscomb, who was linked to dirty dealings at City Hall in the Paul Fielding trial. But he acknowledges that his office has jurisdiction to do so. Prosecutors in the Beaumont-based Eastern District handled the Fielding case when Coggins recused himself because of a conflict of interest. Coggins' former firm, Meadows, Owens, at one point represented Fielding and his business partner, Sam Feldman, who pleaded guilty to mail fraud last summer.

A day before Fielding copped his plea, an FBI informant's secret videotape dropped the bomb on Lipscomb. The tape, played in court, shows the familiar African-American politico sitting with Fielding in the conference room behind the Dallas City Council chambers in November 1992. "We have to set up a company for him [Lipscomb] and have the damn thing certified" as a minority enterprise, Fielding says.

"I am the 800-pound gorilla," Lipscomb chimes in enthusiastically. "I can do it."

Eastern District prosecutors say that company began as a minority business front that later transformed into Lipscomb Industries, a legitimate if unsuccessful minority enterprise. The councilman and his lawyer have said the company always was a minority business and that Lipscomb has done nothing wrong.

The City Hall tape has been all over TV, and there are plenty of people who'd like to see Lipscomb made to explain it and myriad other business deals that suggest he has profited from his office.

If nothing comes of it, Coggins can count on more questions to liven up his Harvard Club appearances. Meanwhile, it hardly quells speculation for him to be seen socializing with Lipscomb.

In May, the two were spotted talking at the Blue Foundation banquet, an annual event in support of local law enforcement. Says Coggins of the chat in the Fairmont Hotel's Regency Ballroom, "It was just a hello."

Should he have been seen with a guy whom people think he should be investigating?

"What can I say?" Coggins replies. "I'm a friendly guy.

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