Renowned former drum corps leader charged with sex assault

November 13, 2018 GMT

The longtime former leader of a champion Pennsylvania-based drum and bugle corps was charged Tuesday with sexually assaulting two women.

George Hopkins, 62, led The Cadets to renown and a slew of national and world championships. He resigned from the Allentown-based group after The Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News reported in April that nine women had accused him of sexual harassment or abuse.

Hopkins was charged Tuesday with two counts of felony sexual assault. Lehigh County prosecutors alleged that Hopkins sexually assaulted an employee of Youth Education in the Arts, the nonprofit that oversees The Cadets, in 2008. A second woman alleges he assaulted her in 2010. Both alleged assaults took place at his Allentown home.

His attorney, Tom Bergstrom, said Hopkins “absolutely, unquestionably” denies the accusations.

“Our position is he’s not guilty and we’re going to try the case,” Bergstrom said Tuesday.

The Inquirer and Daily News report said 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 YEA, the parent organization that Hopkins also led as chief executive officer. The alleged misconduct ranged from lewd comments and groping to rape.

The report prompted YEA’s board to resign.

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 had worked for The Cadets since 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 volatile and verbally abusive. Hopkins made about $177,000 in 2017, according to the nonprofit.