Renowned drum corps leader resigns amid abuse allegations
ALLENTOWN, Pa. (AP) — The longtime leader of a champion Pennsylvania-based drum and bugle corps has resigned in the wake of a newspaper report that contained allegations of sexual misconduct spanning nearly four decades.
George Hopkins, who led The Cadets to renown and a slew of national and world championships, stepped down from the Allentown-based group after Philly.com reported Thursday that nine women had accused him of sexual harassment or abuse. Hopkins, 61, has not been charged and denies criminal wrongdoing.
“This is a painful moment for all those who care about The Cadets,” Youth Education in the Arts, the nonprofit that runs The Cadets, said in a statement on its website.
Philly.com reported the alleged misconduct ranged from lewd comments and groping to rape. Hopkins’ accusers ranged from 16 to 37 at the time of the abuse and harassment they say they endured, including three who were members of The Cadets and five who worked for Youth Education in the Arts, the parent organization that Hopkins also led as chief executive officer until his resignation.
Drum and bugle corps perform intricate routines that incorporate music, marching, dance and color guards. The Cadets has long been one of the top programs, attracting teens and young adults from around the world.
The group keeps up a grueling practice and travel schedule, performing throughout the United States. Its credits include the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, President Barack Obama’s first inaugural parade, a reality TV show and “Late Night with David Letterman.”
Hopkins was hired by The Cadets in 1979 and became director in 1982, coaching the team to 10 world titles. Former Cadets described him as a charismatic leader, while former office workers said he was a volatile, often verbally abusive boss. Hopkins earned about $177,000 in 2017, according to the nonprofit’s financial statements.
Many of the women who spoke to Philly.com said they felt empowered to come forward by the #MeToo movement against sexual misconduct that has toppled powerful men in news and entertainment.
Former Cadet Lee Ann Riley said she was 17 when Hopkins, then 23, forced himself on her and had sex with her.
“There were some tears. I cried a little bit,” she recalled. “He’s like, ‘Are you all right?’ Fine time to ask me now. ... I felt so used.”
Her twin sister, Linda Riley, also a Cadet, said Hopkins had sex with her without her consent two summers later, when she was 19.
“I never said yes. And I never said no. But I never said yes,” said Linda Riley. “I felt pressured and I felt cornered. This is our director.”
Both women agreed to be named.
Through his attorney, Hopkins denied “any nonconsensual relations” with the sisters and also denied having “any relations whatsoever” with Lee Ann Riley while she was a minor.
One former Youth Education in the Arts employee who spoke to Philly.com on condition that she was identified only by her first name, Marie, said Hopkins routinely harassed and assaulted her at work.
She said he showed up at her apartment one morning, begged her for sex, then pushed her on the bed and raped her.
“I just kept saying no, don’t do this, I don’t want to do this,” said Marie, who said she went by her middle name at work. “And he did it anyway.”
She said she didn’t file a rape report or inform the board of directors because Hopkins seemed “untouchable.”
Through his attorney, Hopkins said he did not know who Marie is, but denied her allegation.
Drum Corps International, the sanctioning body for competition youth drum corps events, said in a statement that it was “deeply concerned” by the allegations against Hopkins. It said it was reaching out to Youth Education in the Arts, and also planned an internal review to see whether any current members of the DCI staff knew about the allegations and failed to report them.