DES MOINES — An Iowa-based youth basketball league has agreed to settle a class action lawsuit brought by former players whose coach secretly recorded them stripping or obtained nude photos from them and is currently serving a long prison sentence for the sexual exploitation of minors.
Iowa Barnstormers Basketball has agreed to settle the case, according to court documents filed Friday in federal court. A trial that was due to start on Monday has been canceled.
A fund of more than a million dollars will be set up to compensate the victims, said Guy Cook, lawyer for the former players. The lead plaintiff, identified only as John Doe in court documents, sued in November 2018, a month after Gregory Stephen pleaded guilty to sexual assault.
accusations of exploitation and pornography.
The lawsuit, which said players were secretly taped into a Las Vegas hotel room in July 2016, alleged that Barnstormers Basketball was negligent in the hiring, retention and supervision of Stephen, who was sentenced to 180 years in prison. Court documents say he used his coaching job to sexually exploit more than 400 boys over the age of 20.
The settlement applies to Iowa Barnstormers Basketball and likely about 100 former players who competed with the team from 2005 to April 2018 when Stephen was a coach. A judge must approve the settlement before it becomes final.
Barnstormers Basketball has also agreed to strictly adhere to protocols and policies designed to protect the welfare of young athletes and prevent volunteer misconduct, Cook said.
“This settlement is great news for former Barnstormer players and all future young athletes,” he said.
A lawyer for Barnstormers Basketball did not immediately respond to a message Monday seeking comment on the settlement.
The lawsuit also named the Amateur Athletic Union and team sponsor Adidas America, but court documents say those claims will be resolved through arbitration, as specified in the organizations’ contracts with the players.
Barnstormers Basketball has organized over a dozen men’s basketball teams for student-athletes in grades four through twelve. The teams played in leagues and tournaments organized by the AAU.
Investigators discovered that Stephen had amassed a digital collection of thousands of sexual images of his players and their friends.