Former AAU coach pleads guilty in child porn case

Former AAU coach pleads guilty in child porn case

Boys Basketball

Former AAU coach pleads guilty in child porn case

CEDAR RAPIDS, Ia. — A former Iowa youth basketball coach possessed nude images or videos of approximately 400 boys, far more than previously alleged publicly, according to a plea agreement filed Thursday.

The coach, 42-year-old Greg Stephen of Monticello, appeared in federal court in Cedar Rapids on Thursday afternoon, clean shaven and wearing an orange jail jumpsuit, to plead guilty to child pornography and sexual exploitation offenses.

He admitted to five counts of sexual exploitation of a child and to possessing and transporting child pornography.

Stephen acknowledged persuading or inducing five minors to masturbate so he could photograph or record them between 2010 and 2013, and to possessing sexually explicit images of another minor and transporting those images across state lines, from Illinois to Monticello.

But the 19-page plea agreement, which was filed in the online federal court system Thursday afternoon, shows Stephen was in possession of far more sexually explicit images of minors. Investigators say they found more than 400 folders on an external hard drive that contained videos of nude boys displaying their genitalia. Many of the videos show the boys masturbating, the document states.

According to the plea agreement, Stephen used the identities of three teenage girls to send nude and clothed photos and videos to boys over social media sites like Snapchat and Facebook and encourage the boys to send explicit images in return.

The parent of one of Stephen’s former players told the Register in June that investigators found “over a hundred” folders with photos or videos of naked boys on Stephen’s hard drive, labeled with their names, but the exact number of his victims has remained unclear.

Stephen will be sentenced at a later date, but he faces a minimum of 15 years in federal prison and a maximum of 180 years in prison if Judge C.J. Williams chooses to run the sentences for each crime consecutively.

He did not describe his crimes in court Thursday and spoke only to answer questions from the judge. “Yes” and “yes, sir” were his most common answers.

Each of Stephen’s crimes carry a fine of up to $250,000 as well as a $100 assessment per count and a $5,000 special assessment due to the nature of the crimes.

More: What Stephen’s case tells us about youth basketball’s problems

Stephen — the co-founder of the Iowa Barnstormers of the Amateur Athletic Union, a prominent club for elite players — was cut off from the Barnstormers program when news of an investigation became public in February. He was arrested in March.

Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation Special Agent Ryan Kedley told the Register Thursday that the rest of the Barnstormers organization was “completely cooperative” with the investigation, which involved DCI and FBI agents as well as Monticello police.

“They’ve been willing to help us with whatever they needed throughout the process,” Kedley said.

As a condition of Stephen’s plea, he will be allowed to appeal a decision by Williamsearlier this month to allow evidence found on a USB device that was seized from Stephen’s home.

Stephen’s former brother-in-law, Vaughn Ellison, discovered the device in a bathroom when he was remodeling Stephen’s Monticello home. He later gave it to police.

Stephen’s attorneys argued Ellison was acting as a government agent when he took the device, and that police violated Stephen’s rights by holding it for two days before obtaining a warrant.

Kedley said Williams’ decision to allow the evidence to be used was crucial to the case.

He said it’s unfortunate that any of Stephen’s crimes happened and called the situation evidence that parents should be careful about who they trust to watch over their children.

“As a father and as a child of a sports coach, I view this as a cautionary tale that parents should look at,” he said.

If anyone has further information about Stephen’s behavior that could be related to the case, Kedley said DCI agents are still willing to hear them out.

“If people are still wishing to discuss this case or things that they’ve observed or experienced during their time as a Barnstormer or just things that they think could be tied to this investigation, our phone lines are always open for that,” he said.

Katie Hanna, director of education and outreach at the U.S. Center for SafeSport, a nonprofit dedicated to ending abuse in sports, said it’s critical to provide a safe environment for all athletes.

She said it’s important for sports organizations to put in place policies to limit one-on-one interactions between coaches and players and set boundaries around things like car rides home, locker room interactions, social media communication or overnight travel.

Those organizations should have policies both to prevent abuse and to offer clear avenues for reporting it when it happens, she said. That includes training for adult coaches, staff and volunteers and age-appropriate training for minor athletes. And parents should be proactive in asking whether such policies exist, she said.

“I think the more that we ask those questions the more that we’re going to see that more organizations implement those things,” Hanna said.

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Former AAU coach pleads guilty in child porn case
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