Kevin Johnson, Ex-Phoenix Suns Star, Paid Teen Off After Relationship, Says News Site

A Virginia woman told the sports-news website Deadspin that Kevin Johnson, current Sacramento mayor and ex-Phoenix Suns superstar, paid her $230,000 in 1997 to keep quiet about their inappropriate physical relationship when she was 15.

Mandi Koba, 36, told writer Dave McKenna in the article published today that a contract containing the hush money has been sitting in a safe-deposit box in Arizona for nearly 20 years and that she's ready to face "consequences" if Johnson and his agents want to come after her for speaking.

Koba's story was first told by former New Times writer Paul Rubin in a 1997 article, which used the pseudonym "Kim Adams" for her. Rubin detailed how he'd obtained a letter from the teen's lawyer demanding that Johnson pay her $750,000. The tale was all the more shocking because Johnson had cultivated a public persona as a Bible-studying, community-minded nice guy.

In his article, Rubin described salacious details of some of the encounters between Johnson and Koba in 1995, when she was 15 and 16 and he was about 30. Here's what she said in her demand letter:

"He [Johnson] said I could sleep in his room or the guesthouse and I chose the guesthouse . . . We got into the bed and he took all of my clothes off and all of his but his shirt. He was on top of me touching me all over — my breasts, butt, in between my legs, and stomach. Then he took off his shirt. I didn't really know what to do — I was very confused because I thought we were friends, but I didn't know what else to do than to go along with it...He told me to pinky-promise not to say anything and when I asked why, he said I knew why."

After leaving the Suns in 2000, Johnson moved to his hometown of Sacramento and turned to politics. He was elected mayor in 2008, then re-elected in 2012. He's been plagued by allegations over the years of untoward relationships with young women, none of which has been proven, according to the Deadspin article.

But now Johnson's hearing from an accuser like never before.

Koba describes how she's suffered from emotional difficulties over the years because of her encounters with Johnson, who's described by McKenna as having won Koba's confidence by spending time with her as a "mentor" when she was 15. In a personal essay she published online in January, Koba wrote that she had been conned into "accepting the unwanted touch of a grown man I trusted, believed in, thought believed in me. An adult mentoring me, grooming me, promising me the world if I would just trust, trust in him.”

Koba told police at the time that she and Johnson showered together at his home on the side of Camelback Mountain and shared naked hugs and fondling sessions. An investigation was conducted after an eating-disorder specialist treating Koba learned of the relationship and called police. But prosecutors never moved against Johnson, apparently thinking they didn't have much of a case.

Sacramento lawyer Fred Hiestand, a close associate of Johnson's, told Rubin that the teen was "loony" and lying. Yet as Koba relates, behind the scenes Johnson had the contract drawn up, and she was quietly paid off. In the end, she received $59,000, plus another $91,000 put into a trust fund for her. She relates to Deadspin how she squandered the payoff funds because "I didn’t want to use his money for anything good in my life." When the money ran out, she enrolled at the University of Arizona and earned a degree in women's studies.

"I’ve been called a sick slut in the media, a gold digger, an unreliable victim,” Koba wrote in her January essay. "I’ve had attorneys infer that the man who abused me had much more attractive women, options, so the idea that he’d sexually abuse me, a minor, was ludicrous. I’ve had my perpetrator — that’s what he is, a perpetrator, not someone who just made a mistake — held up as an example, a leader, a trusted advisor.”

Koba recently filmed a public-service announcement "aimed at convincing victims of sexual abuse not to stay silent," the article states.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.
Contact: Ray Stern