Las Vegas Sun

April 16, 2014

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Veteran DA’s chief deputy Koot retiring

Michael O'Callaghan calls him the "heart and soul" of the office. Gary Guymon describes him as "wonderful advocate" and Oscar Goodman says he's a tough, "junkyard dog."

They all agree that when Chief Deputy District Attorney Bill Koot retires on Friday, the Clark County district attorney's office will have lost someone special.

Koot, 56, joined the office in 1972 after having served three years in the U.S. Marine Corps and obtaining his law degree from the University of San Diego Law School.

The Vietnam War veteran, his parents and five siblings moved to Las Vegas from Holland when Koot was 9. They came with the help of a distant cousin, James Cashman of the Cashman Cadillac family.

His father a baker and his mother a housewife, Koot brought the work ethic he learned at his parents' knees to the DA's office.

For the past 22 years, Koot has supervised dozens of prosecutors. For the past six years he has headed the office's major violators unit.

When he's not reviewing cases for possible prosecution, assigning cases or offering sage advice, Koot is trying murder cases himself.

Las Vegans might recognize Koot's name, because he helped District Attorney Stewart Bell prosecute Zane Floyd last year. Floyd is on death row for a June 1999 shooting rampage that killed four people inside a grocery store and wounded a fifth.

Longtime residents might remember that Koot successfully tried labor organizer Tom Hanley and his son, Andrew Gramby Hanley, in the late 1970s for the murder of Al Bramlet.

Bramlet, the boss of Culinary Local 226, disappeared Feb. 24, 1977, and his body was found a month later.

Koot also worked behind the scenes in a case Bell has called the single most important case since he became district attorney six years ago. Koot helped send Metro officer Ron Mortenson to prison for shooting a young Hispanic man to death in 1996.

"Not only was the defendant on trial, but the system was on trial," Bell said.

The public wanted to know if a white police officer would be treated the same as a poor minority defendant, and Koot helped show them that the answer was "Yes," Bell said.

O'Callaghan and Guymon, who both work under Koot in the major violators unit, said Koot is a hard-nosed, caustic taskmaster who manages to be a wise, caring and fair mentor at the same time.

"He's much more lovable than he presents," Guymon said. "He'd have you fear him, but the truth is, he's a wonderful man."

O'Callaghan said he went to work in Koot's unit with much trepidation, but in the end, it was the best thing he could have done, he said.

"I've been privileged to work with a man who demands so much," O'Callaghan said. "He's the most even-handed, fair and conscientious man I've ever met, and no one can match his work ethic. No one."

Koot continued to work five years ago, after being diagnosed with cancer and undergoing weekly chemotherapy treatments. Doctors gave him a clean bill of health three months ago, Koot said.

And while many might cruise through their final week, Koot will be in court Tuesday, presenting one last case before a Justice of the Peace. He hopes to get five suspected gang members bound over for trial in a March slaying.

"I've just always felt that if I didn't put in a whole day's work, the county wasn't getting their money's worth," Koot said.

Even those who worked with Koot on the opposite side of the courtroom voiced their respect.

Goodman, a former defense attorney and now Las Vegas mayor, and defense attorneys John Momot and Frank Cremen all said Koot could be counted on to know just how good a case he had and to offer a fair deal.

"Bill Koot is an honorable man, a well-respected guy whose word is his bond," Momot said.

When Koot took a case to trial, however, the defense attorneys agreed he was a force to be reckoned with.

"No one fought harder," Cremen said.

"He was a devil dog and a jarhead," Goodman said. "He was very good at what he did."

Koot said he doubts the office will experience even the slightest hiccup when he leaves, but he hopes he is remembered just the same. He'd like to be remembered as a prosecutor who worked hard, helped draft some important laws, was honest and had integrity.

Koot said he intends to spend much of his retirement outdoors in Las Vegas and Southern California -- biking, hiking and spending time with his wife of 35 years, Marcia.

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