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Public Safety

180-year sentence for former youth coach Greg Stephen who covertly recorded naked teens

Stephen says he is remorseful but also touts his coaching successes

CEDAR RAPIDS — A mother said her teen son didn’t remember former youth basketball coach Greg Stephen touching him during an overnight trip out of town until he read an article in class one day about rape.

“He must have felt that way,” the mother said Thursday during a victim impact statement at Stephen’s federal sentencing on child pornography and other related charges.

Her son’s emotions have been like a roller coaster since that memory flooded back, she said. Before this, her son was “captivated” by the former Barnstormers coach and “all he stood for.”

Another mother, in a statement, said before her son was manipulated through social media to send explicit images to Stephen, who was posing as a girl, he trusted Stephen and would have followed him anywhere.

“You broke his heart. … You showed him what hate looks like,” the mother told Stephen.

Stephen, 43, of Monticello, wearing an orange jumpsuit and shackled, just looked down as the women poured out their pain and said they felt guilt for not being able to protect their children from a “predator.”

Several other victims or their parents submitted statements to the court but were not made public during the daylong sentencing. Less than a dozen victims or their families were in court during the hearing. The court allowed others, not wanting to be in the room with Stephen, to view the hearing from another courtroom.

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U.S. District Judge C.J. Williams sentenced Stephen to 180 years, the maximum, for “repeatedly sexually abusing children” from 1999 to February 2018, when he was arrested. Williams pointed out Stephen abused 440 victims by covertly taping naked teens — filming in and out of the shower at his homes and in hotel rooms, posing as young girls to receive explicit photos and videos, and touching them 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.

Williams, who ran the sentences consecutively, said he took “no pleasure” in handing down the sentence but said in this case it’s appropriate. Stephen was not just a “voyeur,” as his lawyers and their expert argued. He is a “hands-on” abuser, Williams said.

Stephen may be a first-time offender when it comes to being arrested and charged, but he is a repeat offender over two decades, Williams said. This was a “horrendous” offense, he said, adding that Stephen was in a position of trust to “exploit, manipulate and abuse” children.

Mark Meyer, Stephen’s lawyer, asked the court to sentence his client to 20 years and lifetime supervision following the prison term, which would be a life sentence. He argued Stephen had no previous convictions, his crimes were not violent, he was at no risk to reoffend, and he didn’t jeopardized the privacy of the victims by sharing the pornography or making the victims go through a trial.

“He is a voyeur and molester — not a rapist,” Meyer said.

Stephen, during the sentencing, said it “was nearly impossible for him to describe the depths of remorse” he feels for his “careless and selfish crimes.”

He said he was grateful that the prison system offered mental health treatment. Stephen then asked the judge for “mercy and empathy,” noting that President Donald Trump, during his inauguration, said “America believes in redemption.”

Stephen then started touting his career with the Barnstormers, the amateur youth basketball organization he co-founded. He mentioned winning championships and getting “hundreds” of athletes scholarships to play college sports, with many making it to the NCAA tournament.

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The Barnstormers cut ties with Stephen when the investigation became public in February 2018.

Stephen admitted all his accomplishments are “tarnished” now and his “proudest success stories have been turned into victims.”

Earlier in the day, the defense’s expert witness testified Stephen was at low risk to reoffend and with suitable monitoring and medication he could control himself.

Dr. Mark Mills, a psychiatrist from Bethesda, Md., said Stephen had a “voyeuristic disorder” — he gains sexual gratification from viewing others but it’s controllable and he won’t act on his fantasies again because he is too scared after being convicted and knowing the costs, the doctor said.

Williams then argued with Mills that Stephen could have another disorder and laid out a timeline he made to prove the point. He listed incidents in 1999 of Stephen touching a boy; 2003 producing a video; 2004 or 2005 of Stephen touching himself lying next to a boy; 2005 or 2006, 2010 and 2012 touching three teens; 2016 touching himself lying next to a teen; 2017 touching another teen while he was unconscious on medication; and touching a teen in 2018.

Special Agent Ryan Kedley with the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation also testified about the investigation, starting from when law enforcement was alerted by a contractor who found a recording device in Stephen’s bathroom, then to recovering over 500 files on Stephen’s computers with child pornography of over 400 identified victims.

Kedley said it was a challenging investigation to identify the victims and interview them and their parents. Some declined to be interviewed. This investigation was traumatic for the victims and their parents, he said, because they had to watch the videos, which the agents “sanitized” or edited, and the teens had to talk about being touched or sending explicit photos of themselves to “girls” — with Stephen posing as the girls — on the internet.

The victims said they didn’t report it because they were fearful or in shock. They were ashamed and embarrassed about the abuse, Kedley said.

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One teen had an internet relationship with one of Stephen’s girl personas for seven to eight years, Kedley said. This teen happened to be gay, which Stephen knew, and Stephen as the girl persona encouraged him to have sex with another male and tape it for “her.” The teen had trusted Stephen with his secret of being gay, Kedley said.

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

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We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

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