Stephens case: Teen feared removal from track team

A 14-year-old girl who alleged a Cayman Islands track coach indecently assaulted her feared she would be removed from the track team if she did not comply with certain requests of a sexual nature, according to statements in U.S. federal court records.

Ato Modibo Stephens, 37, faces two charges of indecent assault, one charge of gross indecency and one charge of misuse of an Information and Communications Technology Authority network in relation to an underage female victim. Cayman Islands prosecutors charged him with those offenses in June, but court records state that Stephens left the jurisdiction in February when he became aware police were informed of the accusations against him.

The case is now before the U.S. court in the Southern District of Florida (Miami) for extradition proceedings. The British government is attempting to bring Stephens, who has U.S. citizenship, back to Cayman to face trial.

The U.S. court, in reviewing various arguments for and against Stephens’s extradition, has made public certain details of the case which had not previously been released.

According to the records: “The documents in support of the extradition request for the ICTA [misuse of IT network] charge allege conduct that includes the following: … Stephens sent [the alleged victim] telephone messages asking her to send him nude pictures of herself and engage in online video chat conversations, as well as his instructions to her to delete the texts.

“In her statement to the police, [she] stated that she complied with those requests because she did not want Stephens, who was her track coach, to remove her from the track team. In addition, the analysis of [the victim’s] phones revealed numerous communications of sexual nature between [the victim] and Stephens.”

Stephens’s attorneys argued in court filings this month that the charge of misuse of an ICT network, which is an offense in the Cayman Islands, does not have a corresponding criminal offense in U.S. district court. One of the conditions of extradition is that the criminality alleged in the foreign jurisdiction must also be a crime in the United States.

Essentially, the analogous charges referenced by U.S. attorneys involve much more serious types of criminal conduct, including physical attacks, threats of violent acts against the victim and the like. No such allegations are made with regard to the ICT charge in Cayman against Stephens, his attorney states.

“The language which the American statute criminalizes is completely different than the statute the government is attempting to use as its equivalent,” according to a Dec. 13 court filing by Stephens’s attorney Jeffrey Weiner.

Federal prosecutors have disagreed with Stephens’s attorneys, arguing that such “dual criminality” does exist between the Cayman Islands ICT offense and the federal offenses of stalking and coercion and enticement, both of which fall under section 18 of the U.S. criminal code. In addition, prosecutors argued that the messages from Stephens could amount to sexual exploitation of a child, another federal criminal offense.

No decision had been made, as of press time Wednesday, regarding Stephens’s extradition to Cayman. The federal courts have previously pointed out that the extradition proceeding is not considered a criminal matter and that Stephens would have limited opportunity to directly defend himself against the charges laid in Cayman. He would still have to face trial in Cayman if the U.S. courts and the state department agreed to the extradition.

 

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