A U.S. district judge on Thursday sentenced former Iowa Barnstormers coach Greg Stephen to 180 years in federal prison, the maximum penalty he faced on sexual exploitation and pornography charges after preying upon boys who saw the coach as their hope to play college basketball.
As reported by the Associated Press, the 43-year-old Stephen had worked with Iowa’s most promising youth players as a co-director and coach of the Barnstormers, which competed nationally under Adidas sponsorship. Almost every high school senior Stephen worked with earned a college athletic scholarship, including to such schools as Iowa, Northern Iowa and Wisconsin.
After a daylong hearing, C.J. Williams delivered the sentence, saying the coach's conduct was "of such an extreme nature" that it warranted an effective life term. "The harm the defendant caused to the children is incalculable and profound," Williams said.
According to the AP report, Stephen secretly amassed a digital collection of thousands of sexual videos and photos of his players and their friends. The majority of the victims were coerced by online personas in which Stephen pretended to be a teenage girl and enticed them to provide videos and photos of themselves masturbating — relationships that went on for years. Others were surreptitiously recorded by devices that Stephen placed in bathrooms in hotels and his home or disrobed by Stephen and photographed while they slept.
Stephen apologized to his former players and their parents, saying, “I am disgusted. The things I have done are repulsive and wrong.” He said his greatest regret was that his accomplishments as a coach were now tarnished.
Williams rebuked Stephen for that comment, saying his biggest regret should be the harm he caused the boys and their parents.