Sports Betting Charges Dropped Against Iowa State Athletes

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Four college athletes at Iowa State have had their criminal charges over illegal sports betting activities dropped.

Prosecutors filed a motion on Monday to dismiss the case in Story County District Court, Iowa.

Football players Isiah Lee, Jirehl Brock, and Eyioma Uwazurike, plus wrestler Paniro Johnson, were charged with sports wagering while under the legal age, and identity theft.

However, the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) was counter-accused of conducting a warrantless investigation that exceeded the fair use of geolocation software investigators accessed.

Lawyers defending the athletes pointed this out in January, saying it violated Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches.

The judge has yet to comment. But clearly the prosecution saw defeat coming and dropped the charges.

“The State no longer believes further prosecution in this matter is in the interests of justice,” said Assistant Story County attorney Benjamin Matchan in the dismissal motion on Friday.

The Investigation

The latest development comes after a damning statement from GeoComply, a geolocation software provider for the U.S. gambling business.

It told the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission that it ruled the DCI’s use of its software to go against its terms of service, and cut the regulator off when it learned of its alleged misuse during the investigation.

DCI agent Brian Sanger used GeoComply’s specialized tool Kibana to monitor gambling activity at college campus dorms.

That was despite not having a warrant to the use the software and being told by senior DCI staff not to do so.

“The DCI may have exceeded its intended and outlined scope of its Kibana access and use privileges,” said GeoComply Government Relations Director Gabrielle Angele in an email shared by the athlete’s attorneys.

The minimum age for sports betting in Iowa is 21, and all four athletes would have been underage at the time of the charges.

DCI agents were also accused of lying to the athletes by withholding the criminal charges until they had received a confession.

One agent told the court that he had been pressed to tell one player he would not be prosecuted if he confessed to gambling violations, only for superiors to push for a prosecution.

More Developments Possible

For the four players, this will be some vindication, if not entirely attesting to their innocence. But it has already had big effects on their careers.

Former Iowa State Cyclones defensive end Uwazurike is currently on suspension from the NFL’s Denver Broncos relating to different gambling violations, per the NFL’s rules.

Lee and Brock were suspended and then left the Cyclones at the beginning of the 23/24 season. They were projected starters before the gambling allegations came to light.

All four players are apparently being advised by their lawyers to sue the state.

Despite being dropped, several key Iowa State coaches questioned the integrity of the investigation into the players from the start.

Several other players from Iowa State did not have their charges dropped. Starting Cyclones quarterback Hunter Dekkers was fined and suspended after placing underage bets via family members’ accounts at DraftKings sportsbook.

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