Iowa State Betting Scandal: Case Against College Athletes Implodes

Posted on: March 3, 2024, 06:53h. 

Last updated on: March 4, 2024, 11:35h.

The case against four Iowa State athletes charged with felony identity theft in connection with a college betting scandal fell apart Friday when prosecutors asked for the charges to be dismissed.

Iowa State, betting scandal, Cyclones, Isaiah Lee, Jirehl Brock, Eyioma Uwazurike, and Paniro Johnson
Iowa State football fans cheer on their team, above. Players targeted in an underage betting probe could now sue the State of Iowa after they were prosecuted using evidence obtained by warrantless searches. (Image: Cyclone Fanatic)

Cyclones football players Isaiah Lee, Jirehl Brock, and Eyioma Uwazurike, and wrestler Paniro Johnson were charged last year, along with 21 other Iowa college athletes, with offenses related to underage betting.

Most pleaded guilty to the charges and paid fines. But Lee, Brock, Uwazurike, and Johnson faced the more serious charges of identity theft. They bet using accounts belonging to other people, such as their mothers or girlfriends.

Last week, lawyers for the four defendants filed a motion to suppress evidence. They said it was obtained via warrantless searches conducted by Iowa’s Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI).

DCI ‘Misused’ GeoComply Software

Defense attorneys alleged that the DCI had used geolocation tech provider GeoComply’s Kibana tracking software to pry into students’ betting habits at an Iowa State dorm. The accusation was made in new filings submitted to the Story County District Court.

This had been done without a warrant or “any tips, complaints, or evidence that underage gambling was occurring,” the lawyers wrote.

GeoComply provides its technology to online gambling operators to “ring-fence” betting within a state’s borders to ensure they comply with local law.

Last month, the company kicked the DCI off its software for “exceeding the intended outlined scope of its Kibana access-and-use privileges,” according to court documents.

“Due to this newly discovered evidence, the State no longer believes further prosecution in this matter is in the interests of justice,” prosecutors wrote Friday.

Probable Cause

Law enforcement officers must establish “probable cause” – a reasonable suspicion that a crime has been committed — to obtain a search warrant. Otherwise, they could be in violation of a suspect’s Fourth Amendment rights, which protects individuals against unreasonable searches.

Defense lawyers also claimed DCI agents violated some of the defendants’ Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination. That’s because the individuals were told, falsely, that they weren’t under criminal investigation during interviews and weren’t read their Miranda rights.

The coercive conduct and promises of leniency by the officers make any statements made involuntary, against free will, and contrary to Defendant’s constitutional rights,” according to defense filings.

ESPN reports that the four athletes, none of whom are currently playing for Iowa State, have been advised by their attorneys to pursue legal action against the state.