Former drum corps leader pleads no contest to indecent assault; judge calls him ‘disgusting’
George Hopkins, former director of Allentown's elite Cadets drum and bugle corps, pleaded no contest to indecent assault after an Inquirer investigation revealed years of misconduct.
George Hopkins, the former director of the Allentown Cadets drum and bugle corps who was accused of sexual misconduct by a dozen women, pleaded no contest on Thursday to indecent assault and was sentenced to two years of probation.
Lehigh County Judge James T. Anthony also fined Hopkins $5,000, the most allowed by law, and called him “flatly disgusting.”
“I’m angry. Not just for [the victim], but for all the women who are taken advantage of by predators like you,” the judge said.
The charge to which Hopkins pleaded no contest stemmed from one victim who said she was sexually assaulted in 2010 at age 26, and who provided her account to The Inquirer in 2018. The woman addressed Anthony in court, telling him of years of fear, shame, and depression as a result of the crime, which she did not immediately report.
She said Hopkins' denials on social media after the allegations became public in 2018 — he complained he had been smeared — were a constant source of anxiety. Now, she told Hopkins, who stood a few feet from her in the courtroom, she feels stronger than ever.
“I’m still standing and using my voice to say what you did was wrong,” she said. “Consent matters.”
Hopkins, 63, was accused of sexual assault and harassment by nine women in a 2018 Inquirer article. Shortly after, more victims came forward, and the accounts of two of these women became the basis of the criminal charges brought in November 2018.
The dozen women who accused Hopkins of harassment ranged in age from 16 to 37 at the time of the alleged incidents, which dated to 1980.
In the criminal case, prosecutors allege Hopkins, of Mechanicsburg, Cumberland County, sexually assaulted a former employee at his Allentown apartment after they met at a bar to discuss drum corps rules. The woman told police that when she stood up to leave the bar, she felt “like she was moving in Jell-O.”
She said she told Hopkins no but was unable to fight off his sexual advances. She told police that she passed out in his apartment and when she woke up, Hopkins was gone.
Hopkins was also charged with sexually assaulting another woman in Allentown; that charge was dropped as part of an agreement that led to Thursday’s plea.
In her 2018 account to The Inquirer, that woman, Jessica Beyer, said she had marched with the Cadets and was hired to work for the group the following year at age 22. She said that one evening in 2008, Hopkins asked her to come to his Allentown apartment to do some work. There, she said, he gave her a glass of wine and sexually assaulted her.
As part of the plea deal, prosecutors withdrew two charges of felony sexual assault and added the indecent assault count, a misdemeanor, to which Hopkins pleaded no contest. Since the assault in the apartment occurred in 2010, before a recent amendment to Megan’s Law, Hopkins is not subject to sexual offender registration.
Prosecutor Matthew Falk, the office’s chef deputy district attorney, said Beyer, the woman in the allegation dating to 2008, “decided that not pursuing these charges are in her best interest, and we support her in that.” The victim in the 2010 assault has asked not to be named.
Falk said the victims were in agreement with the plea negotiation.
“They wanted to shed a light on his behavior and for him to have a criminal record,” he said.
Hopkins did not testify Thursday. In a no-contest plea, a defendant does not admit guilt, but concedes that prosecutors have sufficient evidence to secure a conviction. It carries the same weight at sentencing as a guilty plea.
Hopkins also served as CEO of the Cadets' parent organization, Youth Education in the Arts. In July, he sued the organization for more than $580,000 in severance pay. In the suit, Hopkins denied he was fired by YEA, claiming he left the organization through a “mutually agreeable cessation of employment.”
Allentown Cadets Drum and Bugle Corps separated from YEA and became the nonprofit Cadets Arts & Entertainment Inc. in May, stating it had lost $1.5 million in sponsorships, donations, and ticket sales after the allegations against Hopkins were made public in the 2018 Inquirer account.
In an online post last year, Hopkins called the allegations an “orchestrated smear” by those who disagreed with his management.
If his probation officer recommends it, Hopkins will have to undergo sex offender therapy. Anthony warned Hopkins that if he violated any conditions of probation, he could be sent to a state prison.
“I want the victims to know that what you did was horrible beyond description,” the judge said
After the hearing, Hopkins' lawyer, Thomas Bergstrom, called the probationary sentence “a fair result” and said there were many inconsistencies in the accusers' stories.
“All that was claimed to have happened didn’t happen. It wasn’t rape, and it wasn’t sexual assault,” Bergstrom said.
Beyer, who said Hopkins assaulted her after she went to work for the corps, watched his plea and sentencing Thursday, but did not speak in court. In written remarks later directed at Hopkins, she said she had joined the Cadets “bright-eyed, eager, and innocently believing that through hard work and integrity most things were possible.”
Instead, she said, working for the Cadets meant being subjected to verbal and sexual abuse. She said the memories can, at times, “still knock the wind out of me, but I get up.”
“I don’t just get up and go to work to hide my pain and put the abuse behind me,” she wrote. “I get up because I’ve done the work to make myself whole and understand the evil that was done to me was not because of me, but because of you.”