Jury finds former gym teacher guilty of inappropriate contact with first-grade girls

John Austin Hopkins found guilty on 34 counts of gross sexual imposition

LEBANON, Ohio (FOX19) - A Warren County jury finds a former gym teacher guilty on 34 out of 36 counts of gross sexual imposition.

The jury returned late Friday night after nearly 11 hours of deliberation.

Hopkins, who was 25 at the time, was accused of inappropriate contact with 28 of his first-grade students.

He was working as a physical education teacher at Clearcreek Elementary and Springboro Intermediate schools at the time.

“Springboro Schools supports the jury’s verdict in full. Mr. Hopkins’ behavior is unacceptable, and will not be tolerated now, or ever, within Springboro Schools,” Interim-Superintendent of Springboro Schools Carrie Hester said.

The district says Hopkins was immediately removed from Clearcreek Elementary and placed on administrative leave. The Board of Education unanimously accepted his resignation.

“The district is confident, given the numerous safeguards in place, that Springboro Schools will provide a safe and secure environment for all of our students,” Hester wrote in a statement.

During closing arguments, the prosecution said Hopkins was sexually gratified when he pulled the girls into his lap or held them between his legs.

“The reason those behaviors are inappropriate is not because he’s a 25-year-old sexually naive autistic virgin. They’re inappropriate because those behaviors were for his sexual gratification,” Warren County Assistant Prosecutor Julie Kraft said.

The defense admitted that his behavior was inappropriate but claimed Hopkins suffers from a form of autism that didn’t allow him to understand that the displays of affection were wrong.

“They want you to believe that this was all secretive. It was creepy and he did all this stuff because he’s a sexual pervert. That is not what the evidence shows you, ladies and gentlemen. That’s a perfect example of someone who is completely unaware of what they’re doing,” Defense attorney David A. Chicarelli said.

Jury deliberations underway in Hopkins trial

The jury saw a portion of the 200 hours of surveillance footage recorded from three cameras mounted in the school’s gym.

Prosecutors said Hopkins did more than just give side hugs and high fives as he said during his police interview last March.

“Video after video after video the defendant engaging in every type of intimate behavior imaginable with those young girls,” Kraft said.

“Nothing in the case shows that he was grooming a child. What this case show is someone acting completely inappropriate because they didn’t realize it,” Chicarelli said.

Hopkins faces up to five years in prison on each of the counts against him. He was taken into custody pending a sentencing hearing.

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