I-Team: Springboro gym teacher who sexually abused students fights for lighter sentence

WARREN COUNTY — Austin Hopkins, the former Warren County physical education teacher convicted of sexually abusing dozens of Clearcreek Elementary School first grade girls, has appealed his eight year sentence, News Center 7′s I-Team learned exclusively.

In his appeal filed Sept. 2, Hopkin’s lawyer William Oswall argues the case’s Prosecutor mistakenly told the court Hopkins' sentence was mandatory when it was not mandatory.

“This is plain error which fundamentally prejudiced Hopkins – he was sentenced under an unconstitutional provision of the stature and it affected the outcomes as a sentence that should not have been,” Oswall wrote in the nine page appeal filed on Sept. 2.

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Oswall told News Center 7′s Molly Koweek had the court not considered a mandatory prison sentence, Hopkins could have been eligible for other punishments, including early release.

“I think anyone that’s in prison for any amount of time is hoping for a less sentence, and if it’s advantageous to you in the law, and you can take advantage of it, then so be it,” Oswall said.

However, Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell said there was no mistake.

“I don’t think there was anything procedurally wrong with the sentence that the court handed down,” Fronshell said.

Though Fornshell does think there was something wrong with the length of Hopkins' sentence.

“If I was him, I would not be appealing this sentence because I think he already got a gift of eight years,” Fornshell said.

He added, if his team loses this appeal, it puts prosecutors in a position to again ask for Hopkins to have a 27 year prison sentence, a year for each victim tied to a conviction.

“Because he deserves it. I continue to believe he deserves it. There were 27 child victims and their families whose lives were forever impacted by what he did,” Fornshell said.

However, Oswall thinks previous case law would prohibit Hopkins from receiving a harsher sentence.

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“I think realistically if he gets resentenced it will probably be the same sentence,” Oswall said.

Fornshell thinks this appeal will be wrapped up by the spring. That will be two years after the Springboro parents found Hopkins had been sexually abusing their daughters.

During Hopkins' March trial, prosecutors argued video evidence showed Hopkins sexually abusing first grade girls during his classes at in the Springboro district. In June, Judge Robert Peeler sentenced Hopkins to eight years in prison, for his 27 gross sexual imposition convictions.