Feds seek 180 years for Iowa coach who exploited 400 boys

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — A former elite youth basketball coach who sexually exploited more than 400 boys over a decade in Iowa deserves to spend the rest of his life in prison, federal prosecutors argue.

Prosecutors are asking a judge to sentence 43-year-old Greg Stephen to the maximum possible penalty of 180 years behind bars. In a sentencing memorandum filed Thursday, they said the sentence would reflect the harm he caused his victims and the community and the danger he poses to the public.

Stephen helped found the Iowa Barnstormers, an Adidas-sponsored traveling program for the state’s top youth players. U.S. Attorney Marc Krickbaum’s office argued that Stephen built the program to give himself a “steady, replenishing stream of victims” who were eager to play for him.

“The families of these victims sought out Defendant, paid for his expertise and connections, and entrusted him with the safety and futures of their sons,” prosecutors wrote in the filing, adding that Stephen abused the families’ trust to “access, manipulate and groom these victims so he could sexually exploit them.”

Stephen pleaded guilty last year to multiple counts of child sexual exploitation and pornography charges. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for May 2 at the federal courthouse in Cedar Rapids.

Stephen acknowledged last year that he secretly recorded players showering during trips and in the bathrooms at his homes. He also admitted posing as a girl on social media to trick boys into sending him sexually explicit images of themselves and recorded himself fondling some boys while they slept.

Investigators seized electronic devices that had 440 folders with the names of different boys, each containing at least one explicit photo or video of their genitals.

The discovery shocked the basketball community in Iowa, where several of Stephen’s former players have earned scholarships to play Division 1 college basketball.

Stephen has been jailed since his arrest in March 2018, which came after his former brother-in-law found a hidden recording device in Stephen’s home in Monticello. He turned the device over to police after seeing that it contained videos of boys showering in hotel bathrooms during basketball trips.

Stephen’s defense team asked U.S. District Judge C.J. Williams to sentence him to 20 years in prison, saying anything longer would be overly harsh. They noted that he did not make money or distribute the child pornography he created, that most of the victims were unaware of his conduct, and that he did not use force. Moreover, they said, Stephen is unlikely to reoffend in part because he has “no personality disorders apart from voyeurism.”

Prosecutors rejected that argument in their filing, saying the evidence shows that Stephen is a “hands-on” child molester who was first accused of improper touching in 1999. Stephen has admitted to touching the genitalia of 13 victims, usually as he recorded images of them while they slept, the filing said.

“This case has shattered the worlds of many of Defendant’s victims,” prosecutors wrote.

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