City Beat

Phoenix police release 1996 recording of Kevin Johnson phone call to teenage accuser

The Sacramento Bee has obtained a recording of a 1996 telephone conversation between Mayor Kevin Johnson and the teenage girl who accused him of molestation in Phoenix nearly two decades ago.

The July 23, 1996, conversation between Amanda Koba and Johnson was recorded by Phoenix police as part of their investigation into Koba’s claim that Johnson molested her at his home. Johnson has repeatedly denied the allegations and Phoenix prosecutors did not file charges against him.

Redacted audio files of the telephone conversation were provided Monday by the Phoenix Police Department in response to a public records request The Sacramento Bee made last month. It is the first time the audio file has been made public.

The Bee filed its request after the website Deadspin posted a video recording of Koba being interviewed by a Phoenix police detective on July 19, 1996. The Bee on Monday also received a heavily redacted version of that video with Koba’s face blurred out, unlike the Deadspin version. Koba, now 36, confirmed to Deadspin in September that she was the teen who told Phoenix police Johnson had molested her.

Police redacted the audio and video files to exclude specific allegations of sexual acts, though those parts of the conversation appear on a transcript obtained by The Bee in 2008 when Johnson ran for mayor.

“The facts today remain the same as they did almost 20 years ago,” said Johnson spokesman Ben Sosenko in a statement. “Law enforcement had this material, investigated and did not pursue the matter. No video nor audio from two decades ago will change that.”

Koba declined to comment on the recording when reached Monday via an email address listed on her website.

The 1996 phone call came four days after Koba met with the police detective in the videotaped interview, according to the transcript. It was set up by police as a “confrontation call,” an opportunity for detectives to have Johnson confirm Koba’s allegations on tape.

Koba had left messages for Johnson earlier in the day, and Johnson called her back at approximately 6:08 p.m. at a number Koba gave for a phone in a Phoenix Police Department interview room, according to the transcript.

Early in the 39 minutes of audio provided by police, Johnson tells Koba, “I miss you bad.” Johnson asks Koba what she’s told her therapist about what happened between them. “I haven’t told her anything because I pinky promised I wouldn’t,” Koba says.

Johnson says he and Koba had a hug that was “more intimate than it should have been.” He also tells Koba that “I apologize again to you for using bad judgment.” But he disputes her characterization that they had sexual contact.

Koba later asks Johnson about the alleged instance of molestation, which she says “wasn’t a hug.” Police redacted much of the specific back and forth discussion of sexual allegations, including a portion where they disagree on how naked Johnson was and whether he touched her private parts, based on the full transcript.

Late in the recording, Johnson expresses admiration for the Olympic swimmer Amanda Beard, who was 14 at the time of the call. Johnson tells Koba that Beard reminds him of her, not just because of their shared first name but because of what they wear. He goes on to describe in detail what the teenage Beard wore on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.”

“She had like a, I want to say like a flowered sundress that came down to her midthigh, and she had some black heels that you can wear with no socks,” Johnson told Koba. “I think you have a pair.”

The Bee reported in 2008 that Koba and Johnson had a draft confidential settlement agreement in 1997 worth $230,000.

The allegations against Johnson resurfaced in recent weeks and led ESPN to postpone the premiere of a documentary chronicling Sacramento’s efforts to keep the Kings from moving to Seattle. Johnson played the lead role in that effort and is featured prominently in the film.

Then, last month, Johnson announced he would not seek a third term as mayor after his current term ends next year. Johnson has said media attention given to the Phoenix allegations played no role in his decision.

“I’ve never made a life decision (based on the allegations),” the mayor said last month while making his announcement. “When it was time to run for office in the first place, I would have never run if those allegations were something that concerned me.”

Ryan Lillis: 916-321-1085, @Ryan_Lillis

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