Former Basketball Coach Appeals 'De Facto Life Sentence'

May 15, 2019

The former coach of a youth basketball team in Iowa is appealing his 180-year sentence in federal court. Gregory Stephen faces a de facto life sentence for sexually victimizing hundreds of children.

A lawyer for Gregory Stephen has filed an appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in St. Louis.

Defense attorney Mark Meyer argued in previous legal complaints filed with the U.S District Court in Cedar Rapids that Stephen’s 180-year sentence amounts to “cruel and unusual punishment,” and violates Eighth Amendment protections. Meyer also argued Judge C.J. Williams acted as “an advocate rather than impartial finder of fact” during the sentencing hearing, questioning expert witnesses.

“In particular, Mr. Stephen asserts, respectfully, that the Court erred by finding that a 180-year sentence is necessary to further the goals of deterrence, respect for the law, to reflect the nature of the offenses, or to take into account the history and characteristics of the defendant,” reads a legal objection Stephen’s team filed with federal court in Cedar Rapids following the sentencing. “Mr. Stephen asserts that none of these factors, alone or in combination, justify that sentence.”

Investigators say Stephen amassed child pornography from more than 400 kids – covertly recording them or touching them. Stephen would take out-of-town trips with young basketball players, sharing beds with them in hotel rooms or at his lake house in Delhi.

Stephen hid secret cameras in bathrooms to photograph the boys and at times fondled them in their sleep, compiling the photographic evidence in hundreds of digital file folders, organized by the victims’ names.

Stephen also posed as young women online, taking on aliases and then soliciting more sexual photos and videos from boys who thought they were messaging someone their own age.

Investigators say some of the victims did not know they were subjected to this treatment until law enforcement officials approached them.  

Stephen pleaded guilty to five counts of sexual exploitation of a minor, one count of possession of child pornography and one count of transporting child pornography.

At the sentencing earlier this month, Judge Williams said Stephen’s crime was “horrendous” and the harm caused to victims is “incalculable and profound.”