IOWA CITY, Iowa — A prominent Iowa basketball coach was jailed Tuesday on a child pornography charge after telling investigators he secretly recorded his adolescent players undressing in an attempt to monitor their development.
The FBI took Greg Stephen, until recently the co-director of the Iowa Barnstormers traveling team, into custody after a judge signed a warrant charging him with knowingly transporting child pornography. The charge carries a minimum sentence of 15 years, and up to 30, in prison.
Stephen, 42, wore a Barnstormers T-shirt and jeans during a brief initial appearance Tuesday afternoon at the federal courthouse in Cedar Rapids, where he was handcuffed and shackled. U.S. Magistrate Judge C.J. Williams ordered Stephen temporarily jailed and scheduled a hearing Thursday on whether he should be detained pending trial.
The Barnstormers cut ties with Stephen last month when investigators searched his home and cabin in northeastern Iowa and the allegations of secret recordings became public. The program, for boys between 5th and 12th grade, fields teams in Amateur Athletic Union events and is sponsored by Adidas. Several players who went on to play Division 1 college basketball have cycled through the organization since its 2005 founding.
A complaint unsealed Tuesday alleges Stephen’s former brother-in-law came across a USB recording device in a bathroom while doing remodeling work in Stephen’s home in Monticello last month.
The man gave the device to police after viewing digital video files showing teenage boys disrobing and entering and exiting a hotel bathroom shower. The man told police one player featured in the videos spent the night at Stephen’s home Feb. 16, and that Stephen became frantic when the device was missing.
Investigators said they found more than 100 clips of three players, ages 12, 13, and 14, stored in folders with their names. Stephen allegedly told investigators he made those recordings in a hotel in Lombard, Illinois, during a January trip to watch a Chicago Bulls game.
“He stated his purpose for creating the videos was for curiosity involving sexual development and adolescent development,” according to an affidavit signed by agent Ryan Kedley of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation.
Agents interviewed Stephen at a family-owned car dealership in Monticello, where Stephen was the general manager. His father, Roger Stephen, who owned the dealership, sat in the courtroom Tuesday. He and defense attorney Mark Brown declined comment after the hearing.
Greg Stephen wasn’t paid for his work with the Barnstormers, in which he coached players and ran its administrative operations.
Parents of the three players confirmed the identities of their children in the videos, Kedley wrote. Investigators also found a video of a fourth boy disrobing in a hotel bathroom in Ankeny, Iowa.
Investigators continue to examine cameras, phones and computers seized from Stephen. Williams, the magistrate, noted that prosecutors have 30 days to present the case to a grand jury to seek a formal indictment against Stephen, which could amend or add charges.
Stephen allegedly said it was embarrassing and dumb to have the videos but that his only intention was “looking at how much taller the kids were going to get and how developed they were,” and he did so partly by observing their genitalia and body hair.
Pressed by agents, Stephen said he became “maybe a little bit” aroused while viewing the videos “in the same way you would be aroused when you view anyone naked.” Stephen denied ever making sexual advances toward current or former players, the affidavit says, and told investigators they wouldn’t find any additional hidden cameras in his possession.
Despite that claim, agents said they seized multiple covert cameras during the searches of Stephen’s residences. The complaint said Stephen’s conduct dates to 2010, but provides no details of any activities before 2016.
An Iowa Barnstormers player told investigators that Stephen shared a hotel room with him and two other players during a trip to Las Vegas in 2016. The player said he shared a bed with Stephen and was woken up by movements that indicated Stephen was masturbating, the affidavit stated. The player was stunned and said he never spoke about the incident until recently.
“We will let the authorities deal with him,” said Barnstormers executive director Jamie Johnson, who worked with Stephen for years and plans to continue the program.