Defense attorney in Springboro teacher sex case: 'They’re trying to sandbag us'

ajc.com

The state will not be allowed to use additional video it found last week in the case against a former Springboro teacher accused of sexual misconduct with 28 first-grade students.

Warren County Common Pleas Judge Robert Peeler denied a request from prosecutors Monday morning that they be allowed to use the additional footage captured in connection to the case against former teacher John Austin Hopkins, who is accused of sexually abusing children.

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Hopkins, 25, is facing 36 counts of gross sexual imposition involving 28 first-grade girls.

A jury trial against Hopkins began Monday in Lebanon with a handful of potential jurors asking the judge to excuse them from serving due to “hardships.” After Peeler ruled on their requests, the remaining potential jurors were asked to fill out a jury questionnaire.

As jurors filled out the questionnaire outside the courtroom, Peeler heard arguments for different motions filed that could impact the case. The first was if prosecutors would be allowed to use the additional video they found last week leading up to trial.

“As we went back and looked at all the things that are surrounding those particular things, we said there’s something else that we need to share and that this jury needs to see,” prosecutor Kevin Hardman said.

He said prosecutors worked as quickly as possible to cut the video and provide it to the defense.

“Once the edit was done Friday morning, once we had a completed edit, we shared with counsel that we had it,” Hardman said.

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But that wasn’t good enough for defense attorney David Allen Chicarelli, the elder member of the father-son team representing Hopkins.

“This is so far beyond disingenuous, this is an attempt to sandbag us,” he said.

Chicarelli said that the defense’s expert witnesses have not been able to view the new footage, a problem because they created their reports in part after viewing footage previously provided to them by prosecutors.

“This is totally improper and completely prejudices the jury,” he said.

Peeler agreed with the defense and barred the videos from the trail.

Also questioned during the motion hearing was if every parent of a child who was allegedly a victim of Hopkins be allowed to testify. Chicarelli said he feared prosecutors were trying to initiate a “parade” of people to gain sympathy with the jury. Prosecutors said each parent may have different insights into the abuse.

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Peeler said he would allow the parents to testify now, but could change his mind if the testimony becomes repetitive.

Meanwhile, the jury questionnaire obtained by the Dayton Daily News asks jurors a number of questions involving child sexual assault. The questions include if potential jurors spend time with children, if they had family or friends who were sexually assaulted and if they have any special knowledge about sexual abuse.

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