A class action lawsuit filed in Johnson County District Court claims former Barnstormers coach Greg Stephen invaded players’ privacy and that the Amateur Athletic Union failed to stop his behavior.
The unnamed plaintiffs in the lawsuit include all the Barnstormers players who traveled with the team from 2005 to now and stayed in hotel rooms that were reserved by Stephen. He frequently arrived to the hotel rooms early so that he could place hidden cameras in the bathrooms.
The lawsuit alleges the Barnstormers program was negligent in its hiring and supervision of Stephen. The program didn’t establish or enforce procedures, policies or protocols to supervise Stephen’s frequent interaction with the youth players.
“Preventing harm to children should be the paramount goal of youth sports groups,” Des Moines lawyer Guy Cook, who is representing one of the plaintiffs, said.
Last month, Stephen pleaded guilty to five counts of sexual exploitation of a child and transportation and possession of child pornography. He also admitted that he secretly recorded players showering and taking off their clothes in hotel rooms and posing as teen girls to persuade the boys to send him explicit videos.
“We are absolutely sickened by the scope of this disgusting predator,” said the father of one of the plaintiffs. “He took away trust, innocence and created nightmares for years to come of a generation of kids who don’t deserve any of this. The Barnstormers organization is culpable in this and must take responsibility for their part.”
Jamie Johnson, who founded the Barnstormers in 2005, said that he hasn’t received a copy of the lawsuit yet and can’t comment on specific allegations.
“We had no knowledge of anything related to the allegations until the evidence was discovered by a third party,” Johnson said. “At the time, the club took immediate action to remove Mr. Stephen from any involvement with the club, severing all ties.”
Cook said that he anticipates the damages in the lawsuit to exceed $10 million. This includes compensatory damages to repay the injury caused to the victims and punitive damages.
“It’s both monetary compensation,” Cook said, “and getting the attention of youth sports organizations to change how they conduct themselves.”