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IOWA CITY — A federal judge this week ruled all former and present members of an Iowa youth basketball program — who were potential victims of sexual misconduct by former coach Greg Stephen between 2005 and April 5, 2018 — can join a federal class action lawsuit filed last year.
U.S. District Judge John Jarvey had denied a previous class action certification in May, allowing Guy Cook, lead attorney for an unnamed former Barnstormers player, to alter who would be included in the lawsuit.
The unnamed player is suing the former coach, Barnstormers, team sponsor Adidas and the Amateur Athletic Union for being negligent in hiring and supervising Stephen and inadequate policies to protect “vulnerable youth athletes from the despicable conduct” of Stephen.
Stephen, 44, of Monticello, was sentenced in 2019 to 180 years in federal prison. He pleaded guilty to five counts of sexual exploitation of a child and one count each of possession of child pornography and transportation of child pornography.
During the investigation, authorities found videos on a USB device taken from Stephen's hidden camera that he used to record naked players in a hotel room in Lombard, Ill., and Ankeny, Iowa. They also recovered covert recording devices from his Monticello and Delhi homes.
The teens did not know they were being recorded, according to court documents.
Stephen also posed as teenage girls on social media to persuade the boys to send him explicit images, according to testimony in plea and sentencing hearings.
Cook told The Gazette that the court conducted a “rigorous analysis in determining a class action is warranted. Law enforcement discovered there were over 400 victims of Stephen, but the number who will participate in the class action hasn’t been determined at this time.”
“The ruling is good news for the victims of Stephen’s despicable conduct and the failures of Barnstormers’ basketball,” Cook said.
Jarvey approved certification for all past or present participants affiliated with Barnstormers while Stephen was involved with the team and fell victim to Stephen’s “illicit acts of secretly procuring nude images and/or recordings of minors” between 2005 and April 5, 2018.
The plaintiff has met the four requirements for a class action, including common issues of law and fact and the numerous class members and individual claims, as well as the inability to identify all prospective members, Jarvey wrote in his Thursday order.
The largest group of victims was affiliated with the Barnstormers, which creates potentially over 400 class-action members, who could inundate the courts with similar lawsuits, and some might be unwilling to bring their claims individually because of how they were victimized, Jarvey wrote.
Stephen also coached his own youth boys’ basketball club, the Iowa Mavericks, when Barnstormers founder and director, Jamie Johnson, met Stephen in 2005 at a youth basketball tournament, according to the judge’s order.
Johnson asked Stephen to coach and run the Barnstormers’ program. Stephen was a coach from 2005 to 2018, aside from an absence when he pursued a coaching job at Upper Iowa University, where he was fired when the criminal investigation started.
After Stephen was ousted from the Barnstormers, Johnson told The Gazette, “we had no knowledge of anything related to the allegations until the evidence was discovered by a third party. At that time, the club took immediate action to remove Mr. Stephen from any involvement with the club, severing all ties.”
The criminal investigation became public in February 2018, and Stephen was arrested in March.
The unnamed player to bring the suit, identified as “John Doe,” was on several Barnstormers teams from March 2014 through July 2016 and attended a basketball tournament in Las Vegas in 2016, according to the suit.
He stayed in a hotel room for seven nights with four or five other members of the team, where he claims Stephen secretly recorded them, including when they were dressing and showering.
Stephen was responsible for booking hotel rooms for players when they traveled out of state for games and tournaments, according to court testimony. He regularly arrived at the hotel rooms early, which gave him time to place hidden cameras in the bathrooms, which were focused on the shower and toilet areas, according to testimony in the criminal case.
The unnamed player’s father was told by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Iowa that his son was one of Stephen's victims, the lawsuit states.
The civil trial is scheduled for Jan. 10 in U.S. District Court in Davenport.
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