Lawsuit seeks to represent hundreds in Iowa coach abuse case

FILE - This Sept. 1, 2008 file photo shows former Iowa Barnstormers coach Greg Stephen in Des Moines, Iowa. A lawsuit, filed Friday, Nov. 2, 2018, seeking class-action status has been filed on behalf of hundreds of victims of Stephen, a former Iowa youth basketball coach now facing 15 to 180 years in prison for sexually exploiting them. (Michael Zamora/The Des Moines Register via AP, File)

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — A lawsuit seeking class-action status has been filed on behalf of hundreds of victims of a former Iowa youth basketball coach now facing 15 to 180 years in prison for sexually exploiting them.

The lawsuit, which was filed Friday in state court by law firm Grefe & Sidney on behalf of an unnamed victim with the pseudonym John Doe, names former Iowa Barnstormers coach Greg Stephen, the Barnstormers organization and its supervising organization, the Amateur Athletic Union, as defendants.

It accuses Stephen of intruding on the privacy of more than 400 boys by secretly or deceptively recording them undressing, showering and performing sexually explicit acts. It also accuses the sports organizations of negligence by employing Stephen.

"Sports organizations owe a duty of care to the minor children involved in their programs to avoid and prevent conduct that presents an unreasonable risk of danger or harm," states the lawsuit, which seeks an unspecified amount in damages and a jury trial.

Jamie Johnson, the executive director of the Iowa Barnstormers, didn't immediately reply to a Saturday phone message and email seeking comment. The Amateur Athletic Union and attorney Mark Meyer, who represented Stephen in his criminal case, also didn't reply to phone messages.

Stephen pleaded guilty last month to sexually exploiting minors and possessing and transporting child pornography. As part of the plea, he acknowledged that he secretly recorded players showering, posed as a girl on social media to trick boys into sending him sexually explicit images, and recorded himself fondling some boys while they slept. He hasn't been sentenced yet.

Stephen's arrest in March shocked the basketball community in Iowa, where he for years was a coach and co-director of the Adidas-sponsored traveling program for the state's top youth players. The case has played out amid heightened awareness of sexual abuse in sports triggered by the arrest of disgraced gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, who is serving decades in prison after hundreds of women and girls accused him of sexually assaulting them under the guise of medical treatment.

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