Crime & Courts

More charges for SC megachurch volunteer being sued for sexually assaulting 14 boys, cops say

Jacop Hazlett
Jacop Hazlett Dorchester County Detention Center

UPDATE: On Monday, Dec. 3, North Charleston Police said more charges were filed against Jacop Hazlett. The 28-year-old megachurch volunteer was charged with seven counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor and an additional count of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, WHNS reported. Hazlett was previously charged with first-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor under 11 years old.

Below is the original story.

New accusations of sexual assault by a megachurch preschool volunteer came out in a lawsuit this week after police in North Charleston arrested the man for abusing a 3-year-old boy, according WCSC.

Police arrested Jacop Hazlett, 28, after surveillance cameras at the NewSpring Church campus in North Charleston caught him allegedly molesting a 3-year-old boy, ABC News 4 reports.

That alleged assault happened on Sunday, according to CBS 17, when police say Hazlett took the 3-year-old boy to the bathroom. Police say Hazlett performed oral sex on the boy in the classroom bathroom, the station reports.

The lawsuit, filed by the parents of a different boy Wednesday in Dorchester County, states, “NewSpring Church reviewed its security camera footage going back ninety days and found fourteen separate incidents where Jacop Hazlett sexually abused boys in the three-to-four-year-old day care room bathroom.”

The attorney representing the family that filed the lawsuit said there could be more than the 14 victims cited, WCSC reported.

“The reason the church was able to identify 14 victims so quickly is because this was all happening right under their nose on that security camera that is being monitored live,” Josh Slavin said, according to the TV station. “There could be countless more victims that we just don’t know more about yet.”

Hazlett had volunteered at the church’s daycare center since March, WCBD reported.

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According to the lawsuit, the church keeps video footage going back 90 days. The lawsuit alleges the surveillance video showed Hazlett taking the boy, another 3-year-old, to the bathroom, taking pictures of his genitalia and sexually assaulting him.

The lawsuit notes the parents, listed only as Mother and Father Doe, did not learn of the assault until this week when the church reviewed the video footage.

Hazlett and NewSpring Church Inc. are listed as defendants in the lawsuit, seeking unspecified amount of damages, according to the court documents.

The court filing says NewSpring did not monitor the daycare appropriately. “Jacop Hazlett knew of the security camera and its ability to see into the bathroom, meaning he was aware of the extraordinary risk he was taking had NewSpring Church simply been monitoring the video feed,” the lawsuit states.

Church officials told parents of preschool students in a letter Monday that they had just learned of the assaults and reported Hazlett to police, according to the letter published by WCSC.

The parents who filed the suit learned of the assault on their son Tuesday, according to the court filing, but it does not say if the police or church officials told them about what happened.

According to the lawsuit, the parents ”noticed changes in (their son’s) behavior, including him screaming that he did not want to go to NewSpring Church or its daycare.”

“Once we were made aware, we reviewed video footage from the past 90 days in which Hazlett served as a Kidspring volunteer,” the church told CBS 17, referring to the preschool program. “In the videos, it appears there was inappropriate conduct by Hazlett,” the church told the television station, explaining that NewSpring officials were cooperating with the investigation.

Hazlett was arrested by the Dorchester County Sheriff’s Office and taken to the detention center, where he remains behind bars after a judge denied him bond at a Wednesday hearing, according to ABC News 4.

Hazlett was charged with first-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor under 11 years old, and if convicted, faces a maximum sentence of life in prison, postandcourier.com reported.

WCSC reported that the church did do a background check on Hazlett, which included searching his criminal history and checking the national sex offender database.

McClatchy has not received a response to a phone message requesting comment from NewSpring on the allegations. A church spokeswoman told WCSC that Hazlett’s background check came back clean.

NewSpring has 14 church campuses around South Carolina, according to the church’s website. The lawsuit notes that the church collected more than $40 million in donations, the lawsuit notes.

This is not the first time a NewSpring volunteer has been arrested on sex crimes charges. In March a youth pastor at the same NewSpring church was accused of soliciting a minor for sex, ABC News 4 reports.

Caleb Lide Jordan, a 30-year-old real estate agent, faces four counts of exploitation of a minor after his arrest in February, the station reports.

“We stand by this process but are willing to make changes should they be warranted,” NewSpring spokesperson Suzanne Swift said in a statement, according to postandcourier.com. “We are ... evaluating our processes and procedures internally, and we will be inviting in an external expert to help us determine if any changes need to be made to help ensure something like this does not happen again.”

Charles Duncan: 843-626-0301, @duncanreporting

Jennifer Roach, the former Modesto resident who said she was sexually abused by a former youth pastor at First Baptist Church, is filing a lawsuit seeking unspecified damages.

The women say an older church member touched them inappropriately when they were teens, and that church leaders kept it quiet. Now, years later, the man has been convicted on charges of child porn and online solicitation of a minor.

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