By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
Larson says she told Kim Adams about the substance of her second and final conversation with Kevin Johnson.
"She was furious," Larson recalls. "It kind of broke her concept of his honesty and everything. I still didn't know much at all, but I knew there had been sexual contact. The reason she never wanted to tell me was that she thought nobody would believe her; she knew he was Mr. Wonder Boy, and she knew she'd lose her friendship with him. She was very much aware of the ramifications, that she'd be ostracized---but she did it anyway."
In Larson's mind, it was time to report her findings to authorities.
Police use "confrontation calls" as investigative tools in trying to elicit confessions in one-on-one crimes. The element of surprise in the call from an alleged victim to the perpetrator is seen as paramount.
But detectives wouldn't have that advantage as they investigated allegations against Kevin Johnson, because Kristan Larson had unintentionally tipped him off. (Johnson's attorneys say that, even after Larson's somewhat contentious call, Johnson didn't suspect he was being set up.)
However, a transcript of the July 23, 1996, call from Kim Adams to Johnson has Johnson blurting early in the call, "Whiskey, I miss you. That's all I can say."
The remainder of the transcript depicts a stilted dialogue in which Johnson did his own share of confronting. He asks Kim several questions about Kristan Larson's motivations, noting, "What have you told her happened?"
"I haven't told her anything, 'cuz I pinky-promised I wouldn't."
"I mean, what side are you on," Johnson continues, "my side or her side?"
"I'm on my side."
Johnson seems torn between lingering affection for Kim and his own interests.
"Do you think us being naked together or taking a shower was normal, or healthy?" Kim asks him.
"I told you the judgment was not in the best," Johnson responds. "And I'm sorry about that, and, again, I felt we talked about [that] and you're looking at it different than I'm looking at it, and what you're saying happened, I'm not entirely agreeing happened. I'm sorry about that."
The call ends with Kim promising Johnson that she'll call him soon. The pair apparently hasn't spoken since then.
Fred Hiestand admits that, viewed alone, some of Johnson's statements could be cause for concern. But Johnson's lukewarm denials should not be considered an admission of wrongdoing, he says.
"He knew she was very emotionally precarious and he was afraid . . . if he said something to her that was too diametrically opposed to what she's saying that it would push her off the deep end," Hiestand says.
But he also conceded that someone reading that part of the transcript might conclude that in not strenuously objecting, Johnson might be seen as confirming some of the girl's claims. "Yeah, I'm not going to deny that, if you just excerpt that one statement," Hiestand says. "But there's much more to it . . ."
Despite Johnson's telltale responses in the confrontation call, the call failed to garner enough solid data for detective Smith to recommend prosecution.
"At this point in the investigation," Smith noted in a report last July, "there is not enough evidence to proceed with a criminal complaint, lacking the physical evidence and a successful confrontation call . . ."
Interestingly, in his April 17 letter demanding $750,000, attorney Kent Turley employs detective Smith as leverage in his attempt to expedite an out-of-court settlement.
"As recently as three weeks ago," Turley wrote to Johnson, "detective Art Smith told me . . . he had no doubt that sexual contact occurred and believed that a civil claim with a lower burden of persuasion [than the criminal court burden of reasonable doubt] would have merit."
Smith was unavailable for comment, but his sergeant, Russ Wilson, said he "very seriously doubts" Smith made such a statement. Turley tells New Times that he stands by his avowals.
The case seemed to be dead, and police hadn't even tried to interview Johnson. It's uncertain why the Phoenix police reopened the case in January. But reports show detectives tried unsuccessfully to contact Johnson for an interview.
In response, the police heard from vaunted Phoenix attorney Mike Kimerer, who proclaimed Johnson's innocence while declining to make him available for an interview.
The police also tried to interview Kim's teenage friend, Scott. (Scott was willing to be identified in this story, but his name has been changed to protect Kim's true identity.) Kim had told detective Smith in July 1996 that Scott knew details of her alleged entanglement with Johnson:
"He just knows something happened, and [that] we didn't have intercourse."
A detective contacted Scott last January 22, but, according to her police report, he was uncooperative. The detective tried to recontact Scott that day, but the teenager didn't return her call.
Instead, Scott tells New Times, he phoned Kevin Johnson.
"I didn't call him to ask him what I should do," Scott says, "but I thought it was the right thing to do because I don't believe what [Kim] is saying happened. He didn't put any pressure on me at all. I'm not going to lie for anybody."
Scott met on February 25 with two of Kevin Johnson's attorneys--Mike Kimerer and Kevin Hiestand (Fred Hiestand's son)--for a taped interview.