Update: Since this story was originally published, prosecutors have called for John Austin Hopkins to be resentenced. More on this here: https://www.journal-news.com/news/ex-springboro-teacher-to-be-resentenced-for-sex-crimes/VFNDIW6XLRDVVJMGWDZ34RH3SA/
On Wednesday, an ex-Springboro gym teacher was sentenced to serve eight years in jail for sex against numerous first-grade girls.
26 year old John Austin Hopkins was also designated as a Tier II sex offender by Judge Robert Peeler during the three-hour sentencing hearing in Warren County Common Pleas Court.
While reading excerpts of statements from nine of the 27 victims, Peeler stated: “People are punishing themselves for what you have done to these children.”
According to Peeler, the seven members of Hopkins’ family begging for leniency were “in denial.”
He noted that while there was no rape alleged, surveillance footage showed unusual graphic details of Hopkins’ arousal from touching the girls.
“We saw it,” the judge said. “I saw your erection numerous times.”
Following an 11-hour deliberation on March 13, Hopkins was deemed guilty on 34 of 36 counts of gross sexual imposition involving 27 of the 28 alleged victims.
However, parents called for “Justice for the 88,” referring to the number of victims presented to a grand jury following a lengthy investigation.
“My family stands with all 88,” one father said in his statement.
The investigation was launched in March 2019 after his daughter came home and told them that she was happy she finally got to sit on Hopkins’ lap.
Following months of investigation where investigators reviewed hours of surveillance footage, Hopkins was accused of sexually touching 28 girls from December 2018 to March 2019 during his first-grade gym class at Clearcreek Elementary School.
A federal lawsuit against the district, administrators, and Hopkins is also pending.
The victim statements, while slamming Hopkins, also criticized the Springboro school district and officials.
Several parents stated that families had left the school district to get a fresh start because they lacked confidence in their children’s safety as the case developed.
“The more we advocated for our daughter, the worse things got. We knew we had to get out,” a mother said.
“The sight of a school bus made me sick,” another mother revealed.
“Today I hope justice is served on the monster who created havoc for so many Springboro families,” one mother said.
Another mother stated: “The betrayal is very hard to grasp and the horrible memories never go away.”
Numerous mothers spoke about their child’s lost innocence and their feelings of guilt.
“I couldn’t protect my own daughter,” one said.
Prosecutors urged Peeler to sentence Hopkins to a minimum of 27 years.
“We’re very disappointed with an eight-year sentence, given the scope of devastation that Mr. Hopkins inflicted on all of these families and the entire community of Springboro,” Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell said in an emailed statement.
Hopkins’ lawyers maintained that a 27-year prison sentence was more in line with a murder case and suggested in-patient treatment.
The judge ruled on consecutive and concurrent terms totaling eight years.
Hopkins, who is a well-known former swimmer and coach in the area, apologized to the community, parents, victims and his family.
“Clearly I have things to work on. I will make the best out of any situation,” he said.
Following his sentence, he will be required to disclose that he is a sex offender for 25 years.
Lisa Hopkins, Hopkins’ mother and a veteran Springboro teacher, stated that there would be an appeal, but his lawyers didn’t confirm this after the sentencing.
“I feel bad for everyone,” she said.