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Public Safety

Ex-coach asks judge to reconsider 180-year sentence

Claims 'cruel and unusual punishment' for child porn, sex exploitation

CEDAR RAPIDS — A lawyer for former youth basketball coach Greg Stephen is claiming the 180-year sentence a federal judge handed down to Stephen this week is “cruel and unusual punishment” and asks the court to reconsider the sentence.

Stephen’s lawyer, Mark Meyer of Cedar Rapids, filed motions late Thursday and early Friday asking the court to reconsider the sentence for the former coach of the Barnstormers, claiming 180 years isn’t necessary for deterrence and that the sentence doesn’t respect the law, reflect the nature of the offenses or take into account the 43-year-old Stephen’s history and characteristics — all elements judges consider in making sentencing decisions.

Meyer, in the motion, also takes issue with U.S. District Judge C.J. Williams acting as a “fact-finder” and becoming an “advocate rather than impartial finder of fact” during the Thursday sentencing hearing.

He takes issue with Williams questioning Dr. Mark Mills’ diagnosis of Stephen as having a “voyeuristic disorder.” Williams, he said in the motion, seemed to be interpreting how to apply a diagnostic manual of mental disorders.

Williams, during the hearing, said Stephen was not just a “voyeur,” as Mills, a psychiatrist from Bethesda, Md., said. Stephen, the judge said, was a “hands-on” abuser.

Williams also didn’t agree with Mills’ characterization that Stephen wasn’t a repeat offender. Williams said, according to evidence and a timeline he created, Stephen may not have been arrested and charged in the past but he had been a repeat offender over two decades.

Williams noted that Stephen was in a position of trust as an elite basketball coach to “exploit, manipulate and abuse” children. Stephen, he added, was the “gateway” for getting many of these teen players into college programs and scholarships.

Meyer, in the motion, also claims Williams questioned Special Agent Ryan Kedley with Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation in an attempt to “develop facts” that Stephen used child pornography to entice minors to send him illicit images.

Williams, during the hearing, asked Kedley about the photos sent by Stephen, while using a girl persona on the internet, to persuade the teen players to send explicit photos or videos of themselves.

Williams wanted to know if the photos of the girls Stephen used were identified as child pornography victims. Kedley said no.

According to evidence, Stephen, 43, of Monticello, “repeatedly sexually abused children” from 1999 to February 2018, when he was arrested. He abused 440 victims by covertly videotaping naked teens getting into and out of the shower at his homes and in hotel rooms; posing as girls on the internet to receive explicit photos and videos; and touching the teens while they slept.

Stephen pleaded guilty in October to five counts of sexual exploitation of a child and one count each of possession of child pornography and transportation of child pornography.

Meyer, during Thursday’s hearing, asked the court for a 20-year sentence and lifetime supervision following any prison time, which he characterized as a lifetime sentence.

Meyer argued Stephen had no previous convictions, his crimes were not violent, he was at no risk to reoffend, he hadn’t jeopardized the privacy of the victims by sharing the pornography and he hadn’t made the victims go through a trial.

The Barnstormers, an Amateur Athletic Union program, cut ties with Stephen when the investigation became public in February 2018. Stephen was the director of the organization until that point. His full-time job was working for his father’s car dealership in Monticello.

• Comments: (319) 398-8318; trish.mehaffey@thegazette.com

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