A jury found former Springboro teacher John Austin Hopkins guilty on 34 of 36 counts of gross sexual imposition on Friday after almost 11 hours of deliberation.
Hopkins, 25, of Springboro, is accused of sexually touching 28 girls during his first-grade gym class at Clearcreek Elementary School from December 2018 to March 2019.
Judge Robert Peeler ordered Hopkins taken into custody, pending a sentencing hearing.
The five-day trial ended Friday. The jury began deliberating about 10:15 a.m. and reached a verdict at 9:40 p.m.
More than 30 parents waited all day for the verdict.
“We’re excited for the verdicts we got in the case. We feel the prosecution presented a flawless case and the jury was able to see through the defense,” a father said afterward.
The case began after one of the girls came home and told her parents how happy she was to have finally gotten to sit on the teacher’s lap.
“We’re extremely thankful for the parent that came forward initially,” the father added.
Hopkins is expected to be sentenced in mid-April. He faces up to five years in prison on each count. Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell said his office would seek a “significant” prison term.
As Peeler read through the counts, Hopkins’ mother grew more and more agitated and his father yelled encouragement as Hopkins was taken from the courtroom.
Parents thanked Springboro Police Detective Terry Dunkel, who led the investigation.
Hopkins, whose mother also teaches in Springboro, also taught swimming in Springboro. One of the parents testifying against him knew him from being around school and coaching her daughter on a local swim club.
Previously a substitute teacher for the district, Hopkins’ recommendations included former Superintendent Dan Schroer.
Hopkins, who has a master’s degree in public health, turned over his laptop to a detective as the jury began deliberations.
During closing arguments, Hopkins’ lawyer told a jury they should trust in science and accept the opinion of a clinical psychologist that the former Springboro gym teacher could not have been sexually gratified by his interactions.
Prosecutor Kevin Hardman took jurors through the cases involving the girls over the four-month period captured on surveillance video of the Clearcreek Elementary School gym, describing graphically the alleged sex acts, while their 1st grade school pictures projected on a big screen.
Hardman ended with the girl who came home and told her parents how excited she was to have gotten to sit on the teacher’s lap.
“Her disclosure that day put an end to this abuse,” Hardman said.
Hopkins’ lawyer acknowledged “it’s as inappropriate as it can be” and expressed sympathy for the parents.
“You cannot be influenced by sympathy,” David A. Chicarelli said.
Chicarelli reminded the jury they were expected to consider Hopkins not guilty until proven so beyond a reasonable doubt.
He urged the jury to accept the testimony of two psychologists, including one who diagnosed him as suffering from Autism Spectrum Disorder, thus incapable of sexual gratification.
“Thank God he has been finally diagnosed so nothing like this will ever happen again,” the elder Chicarelli added.
Prosecutor Julie Kraft charged Hopkins with lying to police and setting the groundwork for his defense during his interview with police.
“He felt their little bodies every which way possible,” Kraft said.
Kraft also discredited the diagnosis and suggested there were other findings indicating Hopkins is a pedophile.
A lawsuit filed by parents of some of the girls claiming the school district and its leaders failed to protect the children from a former teacher accused of sexually abusing them in class is pending in federal court.
The lawsuit also names the Springboro Community City Schools, former Superintendent Daniel Schroer and Carrie Corder, principal at Clearcreek Elementary, where the alleged crimes occurred.
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 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.