United States Attorney Erin Nealy Cox will resign from the Department of Justice, the office announced today.
“Serving as United States Attorney has been the privilege of a lifetime. Representing our nation is a tremendous responsibility – one I have tried to undertake with integrity and with accountability to the rule of law. I am grateful to President Trump and Senators Cornyn and Cruz for giving me this opportunity to lead, and to the Attorney General for putting his trust in me,” Nealy Cox said. “Of course, I was never the key to the achievements of this great office. Through a courthouse shooting, a government shutdown, a global pandemic, and unprecedented civil unrest, the attorneys and staff of the Northern District of Texas have never wavered in their commitment to justice. We’ve seen similar determination from our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners. I am thankful for their passion and inspired by their dedication.”
Nominated by President Donald J. Trump in September 2017 and unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate two months later, U.S. Attorney Nealy Cox was sworn into office on November 17, 2017. Under her leadership, the Northern District of Texas (NDTX) has thrived, prosecuting more cases and more defendants than any other extra-large non-border district in the nation.
In addition to her duties here in the Lone Star State, Ms. Nealy Cox led on a national level, serving as Chair of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee, a body of federal prosecutors advising the AG on policy and operational issues. Tasked with articulating Justice Department initiatives to lawmakers and to the public, she testified twice before the U.S. Senate. She was named co-chair of the Attorney General’s Task Force on Violent Anti-Government Extremism, served on DOJ’s Religious Liberty Taskforce, and was one of five U.S. Attorneys advising DOJ’s China Initiative, a group of senior officials combatting state-sponsored economic espionage.
“Erin Nealy Cox is a top-notch leader and lawyer – one of the many reasons I selected her to chair the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee,” stated Attorney General William P. Barr. “A fierce advocate against human trafficking, public corruption, domestic violence, and violent crime, she has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to the pursuit of justice in North Texas and nationwide. I thank her for her dedicated service to the Department and wish her every success moving forward.”
In the Northern District of Texas, Nealy Cox advanced an impressive list of priorities. She focused on reducing the District’s rising violent crime rates by aggressively enforcing laws against firearm possession by prohibited persons, charging the second highest number of gun crime defendants in the country. In February 2019, she launched the district’s Domestic Violence Initiative, designed to keep guns out of the hands of armed abusers. This groundbreaking effort, rooted in research showing that domestic violence offenders with access to a gun are five times more likely to murder their partner, led to the Attorney General appointing Nealy Cox chair of a newly created Domestic Violence Working Group. At her direction, the District also took aim at unlicensed dealing of firearms at gun shows, unlawful possession of 3D printed weapons, and private sellers “engaged in the business” of dealing firearms, including the man who sold an AR-15 to the Midland-Odessa shooter.
A passionate advocate against human trafficking, Nealy Cox attacked sexual exploitation from all angles, working with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) to revamp the North Texas Trafficking Task force. In June 2020, the trafficking task force took down CityXGuide, a leading source of online ads for sex trafficking, and used a newly-passed law, FOSTA, to charge its owner with reckless disregard of trafficking – a move that drew praise from lawmakers nationwide. She also attacked the demand-side of human trafficking by charging sellers as well as buyers and instituted a system to seek restitution for victims.
Nealy Cox’s all-angles approach extended to public corruption, where her team aggressively pursued all facets of public corruption: bribe payers, recipients, and facilitators. In August 2018, she announced charges against the former Mayor Pro Tem of Dallas and the Louisiana businessman who paid him nearly half a million dollars in bribes to promote Dallas County Schools’ bus stop-arm program. The prosecution also brought down a facilitator who helped funnel the money. Six months later, Nealy Cox announced charges against another Dallas City Councilwoman, who pleaded guilty to accepting tens of thousands of dollars in bribes from a local real estate developer.
A self-professed data nerd, Nealy Cox employed a data-driven model to kick off award-winning Project Safe Neighborhoods programs in Dallas, Lubbock, and Amarillo. In partnership with a top-tier criminologist, she and the various PSN task forces analyzed district-wide violent crime data to zero in on violent crime hotspots that could benefit from collaborations between federal law enforcement and police departments. In Dallas, the PSN Taskforce also implemented a community-engagement strategy using Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) to reinvigorate blighted areas. Even as municipalities across North Texas struggled with rising crime rates, all three PSN hotspots in Amarillo, Lubbock, and Dallas saw marked decreases in violent crime.
She advocated statistical analysis in other areas of the law too, pushing prosecutors to use data to bring down pill mill doctors and other corrupt medical practitioners. The District brought a wide range of drug prosecutions – from darkweb drug dealers, to cartel trafficking operations, to an MLB employee charged with dealing the fentanyl that killed a beloved LA Angels pitcher. And in the wake of the pandemic, NDTX prosecutors did not hesitate to target those who exploited the COVID-19 crisis, bringing multiple COVID fraud cases as well as obtaining injunctions against doctors touting sham therapies and fake cures.
A prosecutor at heart, Nealy Cox did not shy away from the courtroom. In September 2019, she worked with a fellow AUSA to personally try Michael Webb, the man who kidnapped an 8-year-old girl in broad daylight off the streets of Fort Worth. Following emotional testimony from the mother and the agents that rescued the child in the defendant’s hotel room, a jury deliberated for just eight minutes before returning a guilty verdict. Nealy Cox also argued the sentencing phase, which resulted in a life sentence.
Ms. Nealy Cox’s last day in the office will be January 8, 2021. Following her departure, First Assistant U.S. Attorney Prerak Shah will assume the role of Acting U.S. Attorney.