Lawsuit Filed on Behalf of Sexually Exploited Youth Basketball Players
A lawsuit has been filed in Iowa state court by the law firm Grefe & Sidney on behalf of an unnamed victim being called simply John Doe and hundreds of other victims of a former Iowa youth basketball coach, Greg Stephen. It names Stephen, the Barnstormers organization and its supervising organization, the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU), as defendants and is seeking class-action status.
Stephen has been accused of intruding on the privacy of more than 400 youth players by secretly recording them undressing, showering, and performing sexually explicit acts. He is facing 15 to 180 years in prison. The lawsuit also accuses the sports organizations of negligence and seeks an unspecified amount of damages and a jury trial.
John Doe is identified as playing on several Barnstormers teams in a two-year period from March 2014 to July 2016. He attended a basketball tournament in Las Vegas in 2016 and stayed in a hotel room for seven nights with a handful of other members of the team, where he claims Stephen secretly recorded them. John Doe’s father was told by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Iowa that his son was one of Stephen’s victims.
Stephen was responsible for booking hotel rooms for out of state games and he regularly arrived at the hotel rooms early to place hidden cameras in their bathrooms. He also admitted to engaging in sexually explicit conduct to produce videos with five former basketball players under the age of 18.
“Sports organizations owe a duty of care to the minor children involved in their programs to avoid and prevent conduct that presents an unreasonable risk of danger or harm,” the filing states. Des Moines attorney Guy Cook, who is representing the plaintiff, added, “Preventing harm to children should be the paramount goal of youth sports groups.”
Stephen’s arrest in March of this year sent shockwaves through the Iowa basketball community, where he was a coach and co-director of the traveling program for years. He pleaded guilty in October to sexually exploiting minors and possessing and transporting child pornography. As part of his plea deal, Stephen acknowledged that he secretly recorded players showering, posed as a girl on social media to trick boys into sending him sexually explicit images, and recorded himself fondling some of them in the middle of the night.
Jamie Johnson, Barnstormers co-founder and executive director, responded, “We had no knowledge of anything related to the allegations until the evidence was discovered by a third party. At that time, the club took immediate action to remove Mr. Stephen from any involvement with the club, severing all ties.”
An AAU spokesperson said, “The AAU takes the allegations of sexual misconduct very seriously. When we learned through media reports in February of the federal investigation into Greg Stephen, his AAU membership was immediately revoked, and he was removed as coach and AAU program co-director of the Iowa Barnstormers, the team he co-founded. His arrest in March by the FBI and guilty plea in October reaffirmed our decision to end the AAU’s relationship with Greg Stephen. He committed horrific, predatory acts against the young players he coached, betraying the trust of those players and the AAU. The AAU encourages any other players sexually abused by Greg Stephen to come forward to the authorities.”