Iowa, Iowa State athletes file lawsuit saying rights were violated after gambling sting

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Attorneys representing more than two dozen Iowa and Iowa State athletes have filed a federal lawsuit in U.S. District Court nearly a year after a state law enforcement agency used warrantless geofence technology to access gambling information by more than 40 athletes and hundreds of students at both campuses.

The six-count, 47-page lawsuit filed in the Southern District of Iowa in Des Moines accuses Iowa’s Division of Criminal Investigation of violating the athletes’ civil rights and conducting an unreasonable seizure through the Fourth and 14th Amendments.

According to the complaint, DCI special agent Brian Sanger allegedly drew boundaries around athletic facilities while using technology provided by Canadian company GeoComply on both campuses in early 2023. It enabled Sanger to identify gambling account numbers but not specific account holders. Then DCI subpoenaed various sports betting companies’ records that revealed account holders engaging in sports wagering at the facilities. Prosecutors in Story (Ames) and Johnson (Iowa City) counties then charged those athletes for underage gambling and identity theft, among other charges.

After Sanger’s deposition in January, in which he admitted in Story County Court that he did not obtain a warrant while using GeoComply’s technology, the company ended its partnership with DCI.

In a statement, the Iowa Department of Public Safety, which oversees DCI, has stood by its use of geofencing of the sports facilities.

“Prior to using the tools provided, the Department of Public Safety conferred with legal counsel to ensure lawful access to and use of the technology,” the department said. “We believe the evidence was obtained in a constitutionally permissible manner. Ultimately it is up to the courts to decide.”

The defendants include the state of Iowa, DCI, the Iowa Department of Public Safety (DPS), DCI special agents David Jobes, Troy Nelson and Sanger (both in official roles and as individuals), DPS commissioner Stephan Bayens and DCI director Paul Feddersen. Bayens and Feddersen are accused of failing to provide adequate training and supervision which caused the violation of the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights.

The athletes listed as plaintiffs include former Iowa State football players Eyioma Uwazurike, Hunter Dekkers, Jirehl Brock, Isaiah Lee, DeShawn Hanika, Jake Remsburg, Howard Brown and Dodge Sauser. Also joining the lawsuit are former Iowa football players Noah Shannon, Arland Bruce IV, Aaron Blom, Jack Johnson and Harry “Reggie” Bracy, plus current Nebraska men’s basketball player Ahron Ulis and former Iowa State basketball player Jeremiah Williams.

In addition, several Iowa wrestlers, including Nelson Brands (nephew of Iowa wrestling coach Tom Brands) and four-time All-American Tony Cassioppi, plus third-team Iowa All-American baseball player Keaton Anthony are among the plaintiffs.

The plaintiffs, who are represented by Van Plumb, Matt Boles and Adam Witosky, are seeking judgments for an unspecified amount for the following damages:

  • Deprivation of their constitutional rights;
  • Humiliation, degradation, public ridicule, loss of personal reputation, and emotional distress;
  • Actual and Compensatory Damages including, but not limited to past, present, and future pain and suffering and medical expenses;
  • Punitive damages;
  • All expenses associated with the prosecution of this action, including, but not limited to, court costs, anticipated discovery expenses, anticipated expert expenses, and the maximum legally allowable judgment interest; and
  • Any other expenses allowed by federal or state law, including but not limited to reasonable.

The Sandy Law Firm is likely to file a similar lawsuit representing seven other athletes.

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(Photo: Jeffrey Becker / USA Today)

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