Video quality key in ex-Springboro teacher’s child sex abuse defense

The quality of months of surveillance video alleged to show a former Springboro gym teacher’s crimes against 28 girls in his first-grade class was at the center of discussions Tuesday during a pretrial hearing in his case.

John Austin Hopkins, 25, of Springboro remains on house arrest while facing 36 counts of gross sexual imposition in Warren County Common Pleas Court.

Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell acknowledged the amount and questionable quality of some video involved in the case.

“You’ve got (three or four) months of video. No doubt some of it is difficult to make out,” Fornshell said in a text message after the hearing.

Fornshell, who did not attend the hearing, suggested this helped explain why cases were filed after review of evidence, including the videos, involving 28 of 88 girls and more than 100 incidents.

“But obviously, the grand jury had no problem making out the video for the counts that were indicted. We’re just going to push play and let the jury decide,” he added.

After a hearing with Judge Robert Peeler, Hopkins’ lawyers and prosecutors agreed on the handling and preparation of enhanced copies of the videos to be shared in anticipation of a trial.

“The images are grainy. It’s dark. You can’t entirely make out everything,” said David A. Chicarelli, the younger of Hopkins’ father-son defense team.

“From my review, I can’t see any alleged criminal conduct. It’s hard to discern what exactly they are talking about.”

Assistant County Prosecutor Kevin Hardman told Peeler his office was looking for a vendor capable of creating an enhanced version of the videos for review by the defense lawyers.

The defense also will receive copies of videos of the alleged victims’ interviews by forensic specialists working for the county’s Child Advocacy Center. They indicated they would have the videos reviewed by experts but not otherwise share them.

In a motion filed before the hearing, the Chicarellis indicated they might still call the alleged juvenile victims during the trial.

“Whether the prosecutor calls the children or not as a witness, defendant may call these children depending on what information is received,” the defense motion said.

Prosecutors pushed back, resulting in Tuesday’s ruling by Peeler.

School parents, their lawyer and Hopkins family were among observers filling the courtroom gallery on Tuesday.

Peeler tentatively scheduled the next hearing for Oct. 15, but indicated it would be continued unless both sides were ready to proceed.

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