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Las Vegas mom sentenced to prison for shooting, paralyzing son

Linda Cooney believes she is still the victim.

Despite a jury convicting her of attempted murder charges for shooting and paralyzing her son, Linda Cooney maintained at her sentencing hearing Wednesday that her son Kevin Cooney’s wounds were his own fault.

“I stand before you an innocent woman now wrongfully convicted,” Linda Cooney said.

She said a district judge sealed her fate before her April trial ever began by allowing the jury to learn that more than two decades ago she shot and killed her ex-husband, even though she was acquitted of murdering Jim Cooney by a Florida jury who found she acted in self-defense.

Prosecutors went to great lengths to paint her as “a hoarder, a meddler, a controlling and evil woman,” she said.

Instead, Linda Cooney said she did her best to raise, educate and protect her sons as a single mother.

“I instilled in them that a good man is one who is strong enough to be gentle. Unfortunately my son Kevin carried with him an anger and rage he must have inherited from his father,” she told Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez.

“Once again I was made the victim. But I always protected, defended and loved my son,” Linda Cooney tearfully said. “And I would never intentionally have harmed him.”

The .357-magnum gunshot wound to Kevin Cooney’s neck June 28, 2011, was his own doing, she said. It was the same gun she used to fatally shoot Jim Cooney in an act of self-defense.

She asked the judge for mercy.

After an emotional sentencing hearing that included tearful testimony from Jim Cooney’s brother, Dr. Robert Cooney, Gonzalez sentenced Linda Cooney to 13 to 41 years in prison. The 66-year-old will be 79 years old before she’s eligible for parole.

Prosecutor Michael Staudaher had asked that she serve at minimum 16 years in prison. He scoffed at Linda Cooney’s mercy plea and said her portrayal as a victim fit her character. “This woman is a clear and present danger to everyone in society and anyone who crosses her path,” he said.

The prosecutor said Linda Cooney manipulated Kevin Cooney and her other son, Las Vegas police officer Chris Cooney, to testify on her behalf at the trial.

Kevin Cooney testified that he attacked his mother after she meddled in the affairs of his ex-girlfriend Karina Taylor. He said that in the struggle with his mother he pulled the revolver from her hands. The 6-foot, 9-inch former bouncer then lifted the gun above his head and pointed it toward himself at a downward angle when it discharged.

Staudaher called Kevin Cooney’s testimony “fantastical” and did not match the physical evidence. Multiple witnesses in the case, including nurses and an ex-girlfriend, said Kevin Cooney told them that his mother shot him.

On Wednesday, Kevin Cooney still insisted his mother was innocent.

Kevin Cooney, an incomplete paraplegic, did not attend the hearing. However, part of a letter he sent the judge was read by defense lawyer Michael Becker.

“My mother has been wrongfully accused and convicted of crimes she did not commit. It was by my own actions that I find myself in my present condition. My injury is compounded now by the anguish that I feel that my mother is unjustly incarcerated,” Kevin Cooney wrote.

Becker asked the judge to allow Linda Cooney to be eligible for parole after 8 years, which he said was appropriate for a 66-year-old woman.

Afterward, Becker said Linda Cooney will appeal her conviction on several grounds, including that the jury was allowed to learn of the Florida case.

Chris Cooney attended the hearing, but declined to comment. He appeared stoic as his uncle, Robert Cooney, who he has no relationship with, asked that Linda Cooney be given the maximum sentence.

After a weeks-long trial in April, a jury found Linda Cooney guilty of attempted murder, battery with a deadly weapon and intimidating a witness. She was also convicted of stalking Kevin Cooney’s then-girlfriend, Taylor.

Prosecutors said she shot Kevin Cooney because she didn’t want to lose her son to his developing relationship with Taylor. Prosecutors said that before the shooting, Linda Cooney was trying to sabotage her son’s relationship by sending messages to Taylor’s colleagues saying she was “an evil whore.”

Kevin and Chris Cooney, both testified that Kevin Cooney attacked his mother in a rage and the gun went off in the struggle.

However, jurors said later they did not believe the brothers’ testimony and felt they were trying to help Linda Cooney escape conviction.

Following the hearing Wednesday, Taylor said she hopes that one day Kevin Cooney would be willing to talk to her again.

“He’s loved and he’s very missed. In a perfect fairy-tale ending Kevin and I would get back together and I would be able to help him,” she said.

But whether that will ever happen, Taylor doesn’t know. “Only time will tell.”

Contact Francis McCabe at fmccabe@reviewjournal.com or 702-224-5512. Find him on Twitter: @fjmccabe

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