An Ohio elementary school teacher faces decades in prison after a jury convicted him on 34 counts of sexually abusing his first grade students.
John Austin Hopkins, 25, sexually abused 28 first grade girls in his gym class at Clearcreek Elementary School between December 2018 and March 2019, a jury found after a five day trial that ended Friday. Jurors deliberated for about 11 hours before returning a guilty verdict on 34 of 36 charges of gross sexual imposition, the Dayton Daily News reports.
Hopkins is now expected to be sentenced in mid-April and faces up to five years in prison on each count.
Hopkins was indicted last June after one of his students confided in a parent who reported suspected abuse to the school. Hopkins worked as a physical education teacher at both Clearcreek and Springboro Intermediate Schools.
The investigation led to more than 200 hours of video surveillance of Hopkins engaging in inappropriate physical contact with 88 first grade girls. Springboro police asked parents to review the footage to identify their children, and several took to the stand last week to describe the heart-wrenching experience.
The videos showed the teacher groping the 6-year-olds under their clothes, FOX 19 reports.
“Watching this happen to our child in a video and knowing that there was nowhere to go to stop it… it had happened… we were helpless,” one parent testified.
“There’s nothing we could do,” the parent said. “We couldn’t run out of the room and stop what he was doing… tell him to leave her alone… tell him to get off of her… we couldn’t do any of that. We were completely helpless and enraged and just sickened.”
Other parents described the conversations with their kids.
“’Did he put his hand up your shirt?’” one mother said, recalling the life-changing talk with her daughter. “’Because I know that he did, because I seen it.’ And she said, ‘Yes.’ I said, ‘Did he touch you anywhere else?’ She said, ‘Yes, down here.’”
Hopkins started as a substitute in the district where his mother works as a swim coach and was hired with the recommendation of former superintendent Dan Schroer, according to the Daily News.
His attorney, David A. Chicarelli, acknowledged that Hopkins’ behavior was “as inappropriate as it can be,” but argued the teacher’s Autism diagnosis means he’s incapable of sexual gratification.
“This case is the story of a 25-year-old sexually naive, autistic virgin that has dedicated his entire life to the care and education of children,” Chicarelli said, according to FOX 19.
Prosecutor Julie Kraft dismissed the diagnosis and presented evidence Hopkins is a pedophile who lied to police and concocted the flimsy defense, the Daily News reports.
“He felt their little bodies every which way possible,” Kraft said.
Parents of the victims are now suing the school district, it’s former superintendent, and the Clearcreek principal in federal court for failing to protect their children.
“The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Cincinnati claims, among other things, that Hopkins installed a doorbell on the gymnasium door to alert him when school staff wanted access and locked the classroom door to keep out others,” the Daily News reports.
“The lawyer, Angela Wallace, also filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education, claiming the Springboro school district was violating the parents’ rights by failing to turn over surveillance video involving Hopkins and their children. This also still pending.”