Now-former elementary school teacher John Austin Hopkins, 25, has been indicted on 36 felony counts of gross sexual imposition involving at least 28 female first-graders
An Ohio judge set a $500,000 bond for a former elementary school teacher charged with molesting at least 28 female first graders in full view of their classmates – and security cameras – over the course of three months.
John Austin Hopkins, 25, was indicted on Monday on 36 felony counts of gross sexual imposition involving students at Clearcreek Elementary School in Springboro, where he had worked as a physical education teacher until March.
Hopkins, whose hands and feet were shackled during his court appearance, has pleaded not guilty and denied any wrongdoing.
Judge Robert Peeler of the Warren County Common Pleas Court ruled on Thursday that Hopkins could be freed from jail if he puts down 10 percent of the bond sum – or $50,000, WKEF-TV reported.
If he posts bond, Hopkins would be confined to house arrest.
He would also be barred from having any contact with minors, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer.
Hopkins’ lawyers argued that their client should be released on bond because ‘he’s got nowhere to go’ and could have fled if he chose to.
Instead, Hopkins voluntarily turned himself in, the lawyers said.
Hopkins is represented by the father and son team of David Allen Chicarelli and David Anthony Chicarelli.
The judge rejected that argument, calling the charges against Hopkins ‘overwhelmingly concerning.’
Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell said during a press conference on Monday that Hopkins’ indictment came following a three-month investigation into allegations of inappropriate contact against the first-year teacher.
Officials reviewed 90 days’ worth of security footage recorded between December 2018 and March 2019 at the school, and were able to identify 88 potential victims.
Hopkins quit his job teaching physical education at Clearcreek Elementary School in Springboro, Ohio (pictured) in March after a parent accused him of sexual misconduct
Angela L. Wallace, the lawyer representing the 88 alleged victims, says that Hopkins would invite female students to sit on his lap in a darkened gymnasium while the class would watch a movie.
She claims that Hopkins made sure to have the door fitted with a bell to signal whenever someone would enter.
Wallace says that the parent who complained did so after their daughter came home and told them: ‘I finally got to sit on Mr. Hopkins’ lap.’
After all the children were interviewed, the grand jury voted to indict Hopkins on charges stemming from the alleged fondling of 28 students.
Fornshell said that in each of the incidents, which were all caught on video, the gym teacher would have the first-graders straddle his legs in a sexual manner, reach up under their shirts and also touch their buttocks under their skirts.
The alleged abuse occurred in front of Hopkins’ entire gym class. His male students were never targeted, reported Fox 19.
A prosecutor said Hopkins had the first-graders straddle his legs in a sexual manner, reached up under their shirts and also touched their buttocks
According to the prosecutor, Hopkins was popular among his students and created an atmosphere in which the little girls competed for his affections, because they did not understand what was actually happening.
‘The kids may not notice anything at all going wrong, but when you’re watching it as an adult, your stomach starts rolling,’ Fornshell said, according to WCPO. ‘Because you’re like, “This is not OK.”‘
One of the first-graders reportedly said she was convinced Hopkins would marry her when she’s older.
‘Everything was done right in front of the whole class so everyone could see it,’ Ryanne Gingerich said.
Gingerich’s daughter, Cordella, was in Hopkins’ gym class.
‘The kids probably just thought the girls were lucky to be with him.’
Cordella was not one of Hopkins’ alleged victims, Gingerich told the Enquirer.
Nonetheless, Gingerich says that the ordeal has forced her to have an uncomfortable conversation with her daughter about what constitutes inappropriate touching.
According to Gingerich, some parents want to pull their children out of the school as a result of what happened.
Hopkins was placed on administrative leave in March after he was accused by a parent of having inappropriate physical contact with a girl in his first-grade PE class. He resigned just days later.
He also stepped down from his job as swim coach at the Coffman YMCA in Springboro, reported Dayton Daily News.