WASHINGTON: An American youth basketball coach who pleaded guilty to multiple accounts of sexual exploitation of minors and child pornography was sentenced to 180 years in prison by a U.S. district court. Greg Stephen, 43, had been accused by prosecutors of sexually exploiting at least 400 boys over several years.
According to a Washington Post report, Stephen ran the Iowa Barnstormers, an elite youth programme that helped many get college athletic scholarships, including at Division I schools such as Iowa, Northern Iowa and Wisconsin. Most of the boys were tricked by Stephen into sending him sexually explicit photos and videos of themselves while he posed as a girl who promised to reciprocate. He was also accused of touching some of his players.
Stephen also secretly filmed and photographed the boys as they undressed and slept in hotels or either of his two residences. One of the hidden recording devices was found by his former brother-in-law while doing some remodelling work for Stephen. He then proceeded to alert the police. The authorities later discovered a hard drive that belonged to the coach and contained images and videos and files bearing the names of over 400 boys.
Stephen's lawyers had asked for a 20-year jail term, stating that their client was no longer a threat to the community and that he had no personality disorders apart from voyeurism. Prosecutors countered by stating that Stephen had in fact admitted to touching the genitalia of 13 of his victims. One of the boys had told the police that he kept quiet for years thinking that Stephen was his link to college football.
The Iowa Barnstormers was founded by Stephen in 2005.
U.S. District Judge C.J. Williams said, "The harm the defendant caused to the children is incalculable and profound." Stephen said that his biggest regret was that his accomplishments as a coach were now tarnished, a comment that drew a rebuke from Williams, who said his biggest regret should be the damage he caused to the children and their parents.