Sacramento’s Supposed Savior


One week ago today, on September 18, Deadspin’s Dave McKenna released an article detailing the alleged fraudulent and immoral practices of Sacramento’s mayor, titled, “Who’s Funding Kevin Johnson’s Secret Government?”

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McKenna, in almost 4500 words, covers Johnson’s suing of the city of Sacramento and the Sacramento News & Review for simply submitting a public-records request; Johnson’s systematic takeover and intentional dissolution of the National Conference of Black Mayors, a historically significant non-profit; Johnson’s subsequent founding of “a clone non-profit group” known as the African American Mayors Association; and, in all, Johnson’s “replacing civil servants with private citizens funded by the Wal-Mart empire and tasked with the twin purposes of working to abolish public education and bring in piles of cash for Kevin Johnson.”

One week later, at 9:18 a.m. today, McKenna released another story concerning Johnson’s past transgressions, this one titled, “‘I’m A Grown-Up Now’: The Teen Who Accused Kevin Johnson Of Sexual Abuse Speaks Out.”

The story introduces Mandi Koba, a mother of three living in Virginia who, as a 16-year-old in 1995, was molested by Kevin Johnson.

McKenna on their meeting:

"The original police report from the 1996 investigation into Johnson lays out a portrait of a sexual predator grooming a victim so broadly familiar in its details as to verge on cliché. It says that Koba met Johnson in 1995 while shooting a TV commercial aimed at reducing gun violence. She’d been recruited by her boss at the Phoenix Department of Parks and Recreation, where she was working on an anti-gang initiative, to serve as an extra in the PSA. Converse sponsored the production, and Johnson, who had his own line of shoes with the company, was cast as the star. Koba told police that Johnson gave her his business card soon after the shoot, and sent flowers to her home for her 16th birthday."

The story goes into further, disturbing detail discussing the relationship between Koba and Johnson.

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For better or worse, news relating to Kevin Johnson is, more often than not, news relating to the Sacramento Kings; seeing as without Johnson, the Sacramento Kings would almost certainly cease to exist. Thus, it would be unfair to champion the mayor’s Kings-related efforts while willfully ignoring news that doesn’t fit his local hero narrative, especially when that news involves the reported assault of a minor.

Though, as McKenna mentions, these allegations are nothing new:

"A year after prosecutors decided not to indict, word about Koba’s molestation allegations got out around Phoenix. In May 1997, the Phoenix New Times reported that a lawyer representing the girl was trying to get money out of Johnson. Koba was not named—the pseudonym “Kim Adams” was used—but she took a beating in the story. Attorney Fred Hiestand, an advisor to Johnson at the time and to this day, told the paper that the Suns’ supernova point guard had indeed spent time with the accuser, but only because he’d “tried to help” her. Paul Rubin, the reporter who broke the bombshell story, wrote that Hiestand characterized the accuser as “mentally unstable and a liar.” Later, he would write that a Johnson lawyer had described Koba to him as a “sick slut” during his original reporting process."

"Johnson’s camp, it should be noted, was attacking a high school kid who, according to the police report, weighed 95 pounds."

For Kings fans, these details complicate things.

“Down in the Valley,” the ESPN 30 for 30 Documentary covering the fight to keep the team in Sacramento, premieres October 12th locally and October 20th nationally, and Kevin Johnson figures to play a central part. And if you’re like me, based on Johnson’s efforts you’ve probably admired, celebrated or clapped for the Sacramento mayor–which, knowing more, feels ill-considered and wrong.

Of much greater importance, however, this story involves the victims of reported sexual abuse by Johnson, which renders any ideas of ignoring it for reasons of public discomfort wrong and unjustifiable.

“I’ve chosen to say what I want, fully aware of the consequences,” Mandi Koba told McKenna. “I just felt like I wasn’t doing anything but protecting him. Part of the way they got me to go along with the agreement was they told me it would protect me from his attorneys saying mean things about me. Well, I’m a grown-up now. They can say mean things about me if they want.”

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