An influential youth basketball coach in Iowa was sentenced to 180 years in prison for sexually abusing minors under his tutelage.
Greg Stephen coached players in the Barnstormers Basketball of Iowa, a competitive pre-college basketball program that takes in athletes from fourth grade to twelfth grade. The coaches are NCAA certified, and athletes in the program look forward to entering elite college sports programs, according to the Barnstormers’ website. Players travel around the country for competitions and get sports apparel courtesy of Adidas.
Stephen was also co-director of the program. According to U.S. Attorney Marc Krickbaum, the program provided Stephen with a “steady, replenishing stream of victims,” the Des Moines Register reported.
“He believed you held the keys to the basketball kingdom,” said the mother of one boy, via the Associated Press. “My son trusted you and you destroyed that … How dare you use basketball for your selfish, despicable, disgusting, self-seeking motivation.”
Stephen was convicted of violating over 400 children who attended the program and their friends, according to a press release from the Department of Justice U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Iowa. He used various methods to exploit his victims, including secretly recording boys while they were naked, tricking victims into sending him explicit photos and videos online by posing as a female, or touching them while they slept in hotel rooms after events.
Federal prosecutors and the mothers of two victims urged the judge to give 43-year-old Stephen a life sentence, according to the Associated Press. He was issued the maximum sentence in court on May 2.
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“The Defendant exploited boys who looked up to him as a coach and mentor,” stated Krickbaum, in the press release. “He had power over these kids, and he exploited that power. The sentence imposed today reflects the enormity of his crimes.”
The judge that gave the sentence, United States Northern District of Iowa Judge C.J. Williams, said Stephen “exploited, manipulated, and abused children for almost two decades,” according to the press release.
One of the victims told police that he kept quiet for years about his experiences with Stephen, because he did not want to risk his future chances to play basketball in college, Division of Criminal Investigation agent Ryan Kedley testified, via the Associated Press. The boy thought Stephen could connect him with college coaches at the schools he dreamed of playing for.
Stephen managed his family’s Monticello, Iowa, auto dealership at the time of his arrest. Stephen’s father said his son helped run the business after his brother was killed in a traffic accident.
“He is not a threat to society,” Stephen’s father said, via the Associated Press.
Stephen’s lawyers requested no more than 20 years in prison followed by intense supervision. They said he was primarily a voyeur and not as much a physical abuser. They also said that now that he has been caught, it is unlikely he would do it again.
Stephen first came under investigation after his former brother-in-law found a recording device Stephen used. The former brother-in-law was remodeling Stephen’s home at the time. He gave it to police, according to the Associated Press.
Police investigators discovered thousands of pornographic images of boys in Stephen’s computer files, the Associated Press reported. There are even more digital images that authorities have yet to look through.
Stephen is expected to appeal his sentence, on grounds that his former brother-in-law invaded his privacy when he handed the recording device to police, the Associated Press reported.
Stephen pleaded guilty in October 2018 to five counts of sexual exploitation of a child, one count of possession of child pornography, and one count of transportation of child pornography, according to the press release.