Public Safety

Judge allows video evidence in child porn trial for former Iowa youth basketball coach

Motion to dismiss was also denied

CEDAR RAPIDS — A federal judge Thursday denied motions to dismiss charges and suppress videotaped evidence of naked teenagers from the trial for a former Barnstormers youth basketball coach facing child pornography charges.

Attorneys for former coach Greg Stephen tried to argue that video of naked minors entering and exiting a bathroom shower was not child pornography because they were not engaging in sexual acts. U.S. District Judge C.J. Williams rejected that argument, pointing out that Stephen admitted to investigators that he recorded the players out of “sexual curiosity” and that he became aroused while viewing them, the judge said.

That evidence, in combination with the secretive way the videos were created, amounted to “strong” evidence to show they were sexually explicit in nature, according to Williams’ ruling.

Williams also denied the defense’s argument that contractor Vaughn Ellison, who discovered a USB device in a hidden camera in Stephen’s home bathroom, removed it as part of a warrantless search and seizure.

Ellison, owner of Lakeside Construction in Monticello and was remodeling Stephen’s home, reviewed files on the USB device and turned it over to Monticello police a few days later. During a hearing last week, Ellison testified that he found at least 50 files on the device, including individual files featuring three different boys’ names.

Monticello police, after receiving the USB device from Ellison, waited two days before obtaining a search warrant. Stephen’s attorneys argued that his privacy rights were violated, and that Ellison was acting as a government agent when he took the device.

In the ruling, Williams said Ellison had no prior relationship with law enforcement and no law enforcement officer directed him to seize or view the USB device.

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During the previous hearing, the prosecution and defense mentioned a conditional plea agreement might be in the works, but no court documents indicating a deal had been filed as of Thursday.

Stephen is charged with one count of transportation of child pornography and five charges of sexual exploitation of a child from 2011 through 2012 and possession of child pornography. He is accused of secretly recording naked teenage basketball players in a hotel bathroom. The videos were seized during a Feb. 22 search of Stephen’s residence in Monticello, court documents show.

He has pleaded not guilty to all charges and remains in jail pending trial, which is set for Oct. 22.

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

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