Jury begins deliberations in ex-Springboro teacher’s child sex abuse case

The jury began deliberating about 10:15 a.m. today after closing arguments in the trial of former Springboro teacher John Austin Hopkins.

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Prosecutors urged the jury to find Hopkins guilty of all 36 counts of gross sexual imposition filed against him involving interactions with 28 girls during his first-grade gym class from December 2018 to March 2019.

Hopkins’ lawyer told the jury they should trust in science, as the world must do in response to the continued spread of COVID-19, and accept that Hopkins could not have been sexually gratified by the interactions.

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During closing arguments, Prosecutor Kevin Hardman took jurors through the cases involving the girls over the four-month period captured on surveillance video of the Clearcreek Elelemntary School gym, describing graphically the alleged sex acts, while their first-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 guilty 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 their were other findings indicating Hopkins is a pedophile.

Hopkins, 25, of Springboro, turned over his laptop to a detective as the jury began deliberations. Judge Robert Peeler called a TV reporter for a hearing because she posted a picture of one of the girls on Twitter. The image has been taken down and the judge took no action against the reporter.

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