A former Springboro schoolteacher and graduate with generations of ties to the community and school district is to be sentenced Wednesday for 34 counts of gross sexual imposition on 1st-grade girls in his class.
After the March 13 verdict, Judge Robert Peeler originally delayed the sentencing of John Austin Hopkins, now 26, of Springboro for a psychiatric evaluation.
The hearing was delayed again due to anticipation of a large crowd in the midst of continued concern about exposure to COVID-19.
On Tuesday, Peeler denied a motion for mistrial and new trial by Hopkins’ lawyers, clearing the way for his decision.
Peeler also issued an order Tuesday on the sentencing. He set 13 conditions, limiting seating and use of electronic devices.
“The use of masks by all participants is recommended, but not required. An individual speaking may be asked to remove his/her mask if the court or a participant is unable to understand the witness,” Peeler wrote.
Prosecutors are expected to call for a “significant” prison term.
Hopkins’ lawyers urged the judge to consider treatment and counseling, noting Hopkins, among other things, has no prior record and is autistic, according to expert testimony during the trial.
Hopkins was a substitute teacher in Springboro before getting the full-time job. His mother is a veteran teacher there.
On March 13, more than 30 parents celebrated after a jury found Hopkins guilty on 34 of 36 counts of gross sexual imposition after almost 11 hours of deliberation.
The investigation began after a first-grade girl came home and told her parents how happy she was to have finally gotten to sit on Hopkins’ lap.
After months of investigation, including review of hours of school surveillance video, Hopkins was accused of sexually touching 28 girls during his first-grade gym class at Clearcreek Elementary School from December 2018 to March 2019.
Some parents have brought a federal lawsuit against the district, administrators and Hopkins.
Late Monday, Peeler canceled the hearing for a mistrial over claims of jury misconduct through communications suggested inFacebook posts during the trial.
“To allow this hearing to proceed beyond the written motion and response of the paeries will open the floodgates to frivilous new trial motions based solely on the whims of unknown persons sitting behind computer terminals,” the prosecutors wrote in their motion.
Peeler ruled Hopkins’ lawyers failed to file a “proper affidavit” required in anticipation of such a hearing.
The sentencing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. today in Peeler’s court in Lebanon.
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