Iowa’s Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) screwed up and the state knows it. On Friday, March 1, Assistant Story County attorney Benjamin Matchan filed a motion to dismiss illegal gambling charges against four former Iowa State University student athletes because DCI investigators used geolocation software inappropriately.

Former football players Isaiah Lee, Jirehl Brock and Eyioma Uwazurike and suspended wrestler Paniro Johnson were among many athletes at both ISU and the University of Iowa who got swept up in a sting for underage sports betting. Some athletes placed bets on and even against their own teams, but none were have found to have influenced the games because of their wagers.

Van Plumb, the attorney for Lee and Uwazurike, submitted a court filing in January calling the investigation a “warrantless search” and accusing the DCI of conducting an illegal investigation. Last week, he released an e-mail from GeoComply, the maker of the software in question, which read, in part, “the DCI may have exceeded its intended and outlined scope of its Kibana access-and-use privileges.”

To catch the student athletes placing bets while underage, DCI Agent Brian Sanger used the Kibana tool to create a GeoFence around the University of Iowa and Iowa State freshman and sophomore dorms. He was then able to see the internet traffic going between the dorms and sportsbooks like DraftKings and FanDuel. He couldn’t see who was actually accessing the sites and placing bets, so he went to the DCI to get permission to investigate further. He was denied.

Sanger went ahead, though, and GeoFenced athletic facilities where the only people there would be athletes, coaches, and athletic staff. After doing that and presenting his findings, DCI higher-ups let him proceed with his investigation. The software showed Sanger sportsbook account numbers used inside the athletic buildings, which he then connected to the athletes.

Van Plumb and other players’ lawyers contended that Sanger violated GeoComply’s terms of service, as Kibana is only intended to verify that sportsbooks are taking bets from jurisdictions where online sports betting is permitted, not to weed out individual gamblers. There was no reason, the attorneys claim, for targeting individual athletes – there were no complaints, no anonymous tips, and no evidence that anything illegal was going on. Sanger never got a warrant – he just conducted the investigation for…reasons?

Seeing the writing on the wall, Benjamin Matchan wrote in his motion, “The State no longer believes further prosecution in this matter is in the interests of justice.”

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