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Johnson agreed to pay teen girl $230,000, draft of document shows

By Terri Hardy and Dorothy Korber - thardy@sacbee.com

Last Updated 5:28 am PDT Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Story appeared in METRO section, Page B3

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A confidential settlement between Sacramento mayoral candidate Kevin Johnson and a Phoenix teenager who claimed he molested her called for the former NBA player to pay $230,000, according to a draft of the document obtained by The Bee.

The draft agreement states that Johnson, who was 29 at the time of the alleged incident while the girl was 16, denies the allegations are true. The case was investigated by Phoenix police and prosecutors declined to file charges.

The June 1997 agreement lays out a detailed payment plan and provides that signed copies of the contract would be locked in a safety deposit box not to be opened unless attorneys from both sides are present.

The agreement prohibits the teen and her mother from discussing the case publicly or they must forfeit the money received pursuant to the settlement, some of which was to be paid immediately for medical, therapy and legal costs, followed by six-month installments to the girl ending June 1, 2001.

It also bars Johnson from breaching that confidentiality.

If Johnson or his agents "directly, deliberately and personally breach" the contract, according to the document, he agreed to pay the young woman another $25,000 "on June 1 of the year in which each such breach occurs."

Johnson, who is challenging Mayor Heather Fargo in the June 3 election, has previously declined to discuss whether there was a settlement. On Monday, The Bee again sought his comment, offering to show the documents to Johnson personally.

Johnson spokeswoman Christy Setzer said the candidate was unavailable for comment and that The Bee instead should provide the documents directly to campaign staff so they could comment.

"The campaign allies of Heather Fargo, Leonard Padilla and others have filled this race with vicious smears and utterly false accusations about Kevin Johnson, and The Bee has consistently offered them a platform to do so," Setzer said. "Given that environment, we are unable to comment on any document without first seeing it and understanding what new falsehoods our opponents may be trying to promulgate."

The Bee obtained the documents independent of any political campaign.

At a news conference last month, Johnson cited privacy concerns when asked if he had paid a settlement to the Phoenix 16-year-old.

"I think the important thing, and I've always said this all along, is you have to protect the rights of individuals," Johnson said. "And privacy rights are at first and foremost of what I have to do on a regular basis in this community."

Later, Johnson told Bee columnist Marcos Bretón that he could have used better judgment in regard to his friendship with the girl.

Because of the nature of the allegations, The Bee is identifying the young woman who entered into the settlement agreement only as Amanda, her first name. She declined to talk to a reporter about the settlement documents.

The Bee also obtained a "demand letter" sent by the teen's lawyer to Johnson after the police investigation had concluded. The letter, sent by attorney Kent E. Turley as a precursor to a civil lawsuit, outlined the girl's allegations against the then-Phoenix Suns point guard.

It sought $750,000 in damages, alleging that Amanda's mother had exhausted her retirement savings to help pay for her daughter's therapy, hospitalization and group home care.

As part of the settlement, Johnson was required to make "an off-the-record telephonic personal apology." It also stipulates that Johnson's apology "shall not contain an acknowledgment of any illegal conduct."

Details of the Phoenix allegations became part of the Sacramento campaign on April 16, when Leonard Padilla, another candidate in the mayor's race, released the 159-page Phoenix police report.

The police investigation was initiated in July 1996, when Amanda's therapist reported to authorities what the teen had told her about her relationship with Johnson. By law, therapists must report their patients' allegations of child abuse and molestation.

About the writer:

  • Call The Bee's Terri Hardy at (916) 321-1073 and Dorothy Korber at (916) 321-1061.

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