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State testimonies continue in trial of Warren County gym teacher

Posted at 6:11 PM, Mar 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-11 18:36:43-04

WARREN COUNTY, Ohio — Editor's note: WCPO does not identify victims of sexual assault. Out of extreme caution for the identities of victims in this case, WCPO is not naming any victims or parents of victims who testified in court during the trial of John Austin Hopkins.

The prosecution's testimony for the trial of a Clearcreek Elementary School gym teacher accused of inappropriately touching 28 first-grade girls continued Wednesday as jurors saw additional parent and children's testimonies and more video of what the prosecution said was John Austin Hopkins kissing, nuzzling and touching the victims.

Parent after parent took the stand Wednesday to describe Hopkins touching their daughters under their shirts and in their pants, emotionally recounting encounters they witnessed through school surveillance footage. So far in the trial, jurors have heard from 25 parents.

Video played for jurors showed Hopkins kissing students and placing both of his hands on their buttocks and inner thighs.

Several of the six-year-old victims took the stand to answer questions regarding their experience with Hopkins. One girl told jurors Hopkins touched her skin and it made her uncomfortable, because she doesn't like people touching her skin. Parents tearfully described how they felt watching the 90 days worth of video in which prosecutors said showed Hopkins placing girls on his lap, straddling him and rubbing them under their shirts.

"We couldn't run out of the room and stop what he was doing, tell him to leave her alone and get off her," one parent described. "We couldn't do any of that, we were completely helpless and enraged and just sickened."

School administrators told jurors they reviewed the 90 days worth of video, adding up to roughly 200 hours worth of footage prior to placing Hopkins on administrative leave and alerting authorities. Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell initially said that the video shows Hopkins touching 88 girls between December 2018 and March 2019. A grand jury chose to indict Hopkins on his contact with 28 of those girls.

"There were times that I saw his hands go up the shirt and you could see the shirt move," said Carrie Corter, principal of Clearcreek Elementary. "There were times when I saw his hands go into their waist bands."

Carrie Hester, interim superintendent of Springboro Schools, was the district's human resources director during the time administration viewed the videos of Hopkins. She testified that, on more than one occasion, she believed she witnessed Hopkins with an erection during interactions with the girls.

Parents also described watching their children squirm as Hopkins held them on his lap, or hugged them.

Hopkins' defense team said it has three psychologists who will testify about his autism and declare that his interactions with those girls weren't about sexual pleasure.

The defense also argued that what Hester thought was an erection could have been Hopkins' phone in his pocket. They maintain that Hopkins had no sexual intent toward the girls during any of the interactions shown in the videos.

“This case is the story of a 25-year-old, sexually naive, autistic virgin that has dedicated his entire life to the care and education of children and has been actively involved with them for the last 10 years in numerous roles,” defense attorney David Chicarelli said during opening statements Monday.