LEBANON, Ohio — The former teacher charged with sexually abusing 28 first-grade girls is out of jail, according to Warren County Jail officials. He posted bond Friday morning, jail officials told WCPO media partner the Journal-News.
John Austin Hopkins, 25, pleaded not guilty and got a $500,000 bond in a Warren County courtroom Thursday afternoon.
Parents of the alleged victims filled the courtroom as Hopkins, shackled at the ankles and wrists, made his first appearance since he was indicted Monday. Members of Hopkins' family were there, too. Both sides called it a tough day.
"He totally denies this," said Hopkins' attorney, David Allen Chicarelli. "Anything that happened was inadvertent. 'Inadvertent' probably isn’t the right choice of words. There was nothing that was done improperly."
But Angela Wallace, attorney for the 28 families, scoffed at that in recounting what led to the investigation of Hopkins.
"One of the children got home from school one day and, as most parents are want to do, the parents asked how that child’s day was. And the child said, 'It was a great day. It was finally my turn to sit on Mr. Hopkins' lap,'" Wallace said. "And red flags immediately went off, as they would in any parent's mind."
Hopkins will be required to stay at his family’s home subject to electronic monitoring while awaiting trial, as ordered by Judge Robert Peeler Thursday. He will not be allowed around minors.
With bail set at $500,000, Hopkins was able to get out of jail on 10% post or $50,000.
Prosecutors on Thursday asked for the high bond and those conditions upon release, calling Hopkins a danger to the community.
"That’s absurd," said Hopkins’ attorney.
Chicarelli asked for Hopkins to be released with no bond, telling the court that Hopkins had no intention of going outside the area, voluntarily turned himself in and posed no danger to the public.
The case may hinge on the video recorded inside the Clearcreek Elementary gymnasium where Hopkins taught P.E.
Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell said Monday that the video shows Hopkins touching 88 girls between December 2018 and March 2019. Hopkins placed "many of the girls on his lap, straddling him in what I would describe as a sexual manner," Fornshell said. Video also shows Hopkins "putting his hands up their shirts and skirts," the prosecutor said.
None of the attorneys have seen the videos. Hopkins' attorney was just retained Thursday morning. The families' attorney has only received reports on them.
Wallace described what she was told this way:
“He’ll motion one little girl over to the side and begin with the child sitting on his lap and then it progresses from there to touching in obviously inappropriate places. Rubbing, those sorts of things," said Wallace.
Chicarelli said the videos may help Hopkins' case.
"Just because there are videos they claim show something, there may be a lot of videos that don’t," he said. "So we may need to get more than what they just give us."
Fornshell said Hopkins manipulated the first graders so much they "would compete for his attention." Hopkins even told one girl he would marry her when she got older, the prosecutor said.
The video was shown to a grand jury, which determined which of Hopkins' actions rose to the level of criminal, Fornshell said. The grand jury indicted Hopkins on 36 counts of gross sexual imposition.
Upon conviction, each count would require a mandatory prison term from 12 to 15 months.
The Springboro school district hired Hopkins last August to split between Clearcreek Elementary and Springboro Intermediate. Springboro Intermediate Principal Diane Stacy referred Hopkins after he spent time as a substitute and custodian in the district, the Journal-News reported.
Hopkins, a Springboro High graduate, worked as a sub while earning a bachelor's degree in kinesiology from Miami University and a master’s degree in public health from Wright State University.
Hopkins was an assistant swim coach for 18 months at the Coffman YMCA in Springboro until he resigned in March following the announcement of a police investigation
In a statement, the YMCA of Greater Dayton said Hopkins worked with children 11-12. The YMCA said it immediately conducted its own investigation into his conduct at the Coffman YMCA and "found no evidence of inappropriate behavior."