IOWA CITY — A federal judge ruled this week that all former and current members of an Iowa youth basketball program — who were potential victims of sexual misconduct by former coach Greg Stephen between 2005 and April 5, 2018 – can join a federal class action lawsuit filed in the last year.
US District Judge John Jarvey had denied a previous class action certification in May, allowing Guy Cook, lead attorney for a former Barnstormers player anonymous, to change who would be included in the lawsuit.
The anonymous player is suing the former coach, Barnstormers, team sponsor Adidas and the Amateur Athletic Union for negligence in the hiring and supervision of Stephen and inadequate policies to protect ‘vulnerable young athletes despicable conduct” from Stephen.
Stephen, 44, of Monticello, was sentenced in 2019 to 180 years in federal prison. He pleaded guilty to five counts of sexually exploiting a child and one count of possession of child pornography and transporting child pornography.
During the investigation, authorities found videos on a USB device extracted from Stephen’s hidden camera that he used to record naked gamers in a hotel room in Lombard, Illinois, and Ankeny, Iowa. They also recovered secret recording devices from his homes in Monticello and Delhi.
The teenagers did not know they were being taped, according to court documents.
Stephen also posed as teenage girls on social media to persuade boys to send him explicit images, according to testimony at plea and sentencing hearings.
Cook told The Gazette that the court conducted a “rigorous analysis to determine that a class action was warranted. Law enforcement has discovered there are more than 400 victims of Stephen, but the number of people who will participate in the class action lawsuit has not been determined at this time.
“The ruling is welcome news for the victims of Stephen’s despicable conduct and the Barnstormers’ basketball failures,” Cook said.
Jarvey endorsed certification for all past or present participants affiliated with Barnstormers while Stephen was involved with the team and was a victim of Stephen’s “unlawful acts of secretly procuring nude images and/or recordings of minors” between 2005 and April 5, 2018.
Plaintiff has met all four requirements for a class action, including common issues of law and fact and numerous class members and individual claims, as well as failure to identify all potential members, Jarvey wrote in his prescription for Thursday.
The largest group of victims was affiliated with the Barnstormers, potentially creating more than 400 class action members, who could flood the courts with similar lawsuits, and some may not want to file complaints individually because of the way they were victims, wrote Jarvey.
Stephen also coached his own young boys’ basketball club, the Iowa Mavericks, when Barnstormers founder and manager Jamie Johnson met Stephen in 2005 at a youth basketball tournament, according to the judge’s order.
Johnson asked Stephen to coach and lead the Barnstormers program. Stephen coached from 2005 to 2018, aside from an absence when he pursued a coaching job at Upper Iowa University, where he was fired when the criminal investigation began.
After Stephen was ousted from the Barnstormers, Johnson told The Gazette: “We had no knowledge of anything related to the allegations until the evidence was uncovered 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.
The criminal investigation was made public in February 2018 and Stephen was arrested in March.
The unnamed player who wears the costume, identified as “John Doe,” was on several Barnstormers teams from March 2014 to July 2016 and attended a basketball tournament in Las Vegas in 2016, according to the costume.
He stayed in a hotel room for seven nights with four or five other team members, where he claims Stephen secretly recorded them, including when they were getting dressed and showering.
Stephen was responsible for booking hotel rooms for players when they traveled out of state for games and tournaments, according to court testimony. He routinely arrived early in hotel rooms, giving him time to place hidden cameras in bathrooms, which were focused on showers and toilets, according to testimony in the criminal case.
The player anonymous’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, the lawsuit says.
The civil trial is scheduled for January 10 in U.S. District Court in Davenport.
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