Public Safety

Prosecutors ask judge to sentence former coach Greg Stephen to 180 years for video recording naked teen players

Defense asks for 20 years

CEDAR RAPIDS — Federal prosecutors will ask a judge next month to sentence a former youth basketball coach, convicted of video recording naked teenage players and “catfishing” boys online to send him explicit images, to the maximum prison term of 180 years.

Prosecutors, in a sentencing memo filed Thursday, said Greg Stephen built an organization “designed to feed him a steady, replenishing stream of victims.”

The victims were drawn from a pool of boys who were eager to play basketball for him, and he had control and authority over the teens as members of the Barnstormers, of the Amateur Athletic Union.

The plea agreement reveals timeline of the investigation into former Iowa Barnstormers AAU coach Greg Stephen:

Continue Reading

“The families of these victims sought out the defendant, paid for his expertise and connections and entrusted him with the safety and futures of their sons,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Clifford Stone, of the Southern District of Iowa, said in the court document.

“Defendant used his positions as founder and a coach for an elite youth basketball organization to access, manipulate and groom these victims so he could sexually exploit them.”

In the sentencing document, Stone said the number of Stephen’s victims exceeded 400 by the time he was arrested in March 2018.

Stephen’s defense attorney is suggesting the judge settle on a sentence of 20 years in prison.

The Barnstormers cut ties with Stephen when the investigation became public in February 2018. Stephen remains in jail pending sentencing.

Sentencing is scheduled for May 2 in U.S. District Court.

plea agreement

Stephen, 43, of Monticello, pleaded guilty last October in U.S. District Court to five counts of sexual exploitation of a child and one count each of possession of child pornography and transportation of child pornography.

A plea agreement detailed sexually explicit videos that Stephen took of the boys and other details of the investigation, including Stephen impersonating teen girls on social media — a practice known as catfishing — to persuade teen boys to provide explicit videos and images to him.

Stephen, in the plea, admitted to engaging in sexually explicit conduct to produce videos with five former basketball players under the age of 18.

According to the plea agreement, Stephen persuaded four of the boys to provide explicit images or videos but had no physical contact with them. He did have physical contact with one victim, who traveled to tournaments and games with Stephen on several occasions and went to Stephen’s cabin in Delhi.

Stephen also admitted in the plea to possessing child pornography and to transporting an external hard drive that contained videos or images of minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct. He said he carried the device across state lines from Illinois to Iowa.

Stephen violated his victims by covertly recording them while they were naked, tricking them into sending explicit images and videos to him and photographing himself touching victims’ private parts while they were asleep.

sentencing

The advisory sentencing guidelines provided federal judges and prosecutors calls for 2,160 months — or 180 years — in federal prison.

The length of incarceration is necessary, based on the nature and circumstances of the offense, the harm caused the victims and community and Stephen’s “level of dangerousness,” according to the sentencing document.

Still to be resolved are sentencing “enhancements” — such as pattern of activity and physical contact — that could increase prison time or warrant the maximum sentence prosecutors have recommended, according to the document.

defense request

Mark Meyer of Cedar Rapids, Stephen’s attorney, is asking the judge to run his client’s sentences concurrently, for a total of 20 years in prison.

Meyer disputes some of the enhancements and argues Stephen’s production of child pornography was “non-coercive and non-commercial conduct without dissemination.”

He also argues that Stephen has no criminal history and the guideline sentencing range is “disproportionally harsh” regarding the child pornography charges and notes previous cases have encouraged judges to use discretion, based on each individual case.

no statements

At this time, Stone said, none of Stephen’s victims want to address the court or have their victim impact statements read aloud during Stephen’s sentencing.

The prosecution also is asking the court order Stephen pay two $5,000 special assessment penalties on the offenses of possession and transportation of child pornography.

According to the sentencing document, Stephen has the means to pay the fines. He has a net worth of $113,133, owns two houses and continued to receive a salary for more than a year, as a loan, from his former employer, Stephen Motors, pending resolution of this case, the document shows.

Prosecutors, in the document, said the defense tried to claim Stephen was a voyeur who was mainly a consumer of child pornography, and therefore, less dangerous. But the evidence establishes Stephen is a “longtime child molester and producer of child pornography.”

started in 2003

In 2003, Stephen founded the Iowa Mavericks Basketball Club, where he spent more than 50 hours a week with 60 to 65 young, male basketball players, according to the document.

The timing coincides with the earliest computer folder containing child pornography recovered — Aug. 3, 2003.

From that time until 2018, Stephen “ingratiated” himself into the youth basketball community, co-founding the Barnstormers in 2005.

Stephen also looked for opportunities to spend time with players away from their families, Stone said.

Players spent the night at his homes, and he invited the boys to attend tournaments and professional basketball games out of town, where he would share a bed with a boy in hotel rooms.

The prosecution relied on the child pornography recovered and the victims who reported instances of touching, but due to “shame, embarrassment and a variety of other reasons,” many victims may not have reported Stephen physically touched them, Stone said.

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

Give us feedback

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.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.