Man sentenced to 75 years for sexually assaulting kids at N. Charleston church

Man sentenced to 75 years for sexually assaulting kids at N. Charleston church
Jacop Hazlett is facing multiple counts of criminal sexual conduct with a minor. (Source: Live 5 News)

DORCHESTER COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - A man has been sentenced to 75 years in prison after being found guilty of sexually assaulting children at a North Charleston church where he worked as a volunteer.

A jury found Jacop Hazlett guilty of six charges in the case. He was convicted of first-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor, three counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor and two counts of first-degree sexual exploitation of a minor.

Hazlett has been accused of sexually assaulting 15 young boys inside the NewSpring Church in North Charleston, but this trial only pertains to four of the alleged victims.

“I’m sorry for betraying your trust,” Hazlett said to the courtroom before his sentencing. “I’m committed to change. I intend to better myself.”

The victims’ families also had an opportunity to speak after the verdict was read but before the sentencing was done.

“You’re a living example of what evil is," one grandfather said. “This has caused my kids to question their faith, even mine.”

“I watched this man high five my son when we left that morning,” one father said. “He loved going to church, and now he’s terrifed.”

Lawsuits claim Hazlett was working with the KidSpring children ministry and daycare program at the time of the incidents. Hazlett gave an interview to police telling detectives that he inappropriately touched, and took video as well as photos of numerous children at the church, according to authorities. Hazlett also told police he was sexually attracted to young males and knew his actions were wrong, the affidavit stated.

The jury began deliberations around noon on Thursday, and about an hour in requested to hear the testimony of the parents who took the stand on Wednesday. The jury also asked for the charges and definitions again.

The details of the classroom video that allegedly capture Hazlett doing the illegal acts on children were also explained in detail for the first time in open court. Before, it was only the jury who watched it.

The solicitor said in her closing argument the video from November 2018 captured Hazlett taking a 3-year-old to the bathroom and rubbing his hand back and forth on the child’s privates.

Then in the span of the next hour, prosecutors say he did it again to three other boys. In one of the incidents, authorities say the video shows the child trying to get Hazlett off him. And in another, they say the video shows him taking photos of a child who is exposed.

One juror was dismissed on Thursday asking the judge to decide Hazlett’s fate because the defense didn’t present any evidence. An alternate was then chosen.

“I’m going to ask you to sit this one out,” the judge said. But, she then asked him to return at 11:30 to go into the next jury pool for a different case.

Wednesday was an emotional day of testimony from four parents. The first parent identified her son in five photos that showed his privates. She then broke down in tears.

Three other parents identified photos of their children, two of which said they remember dropping their sons off to Hazlett.

Police say Hazlett sexually assaulted the four of them last November and took pictures of them. It all happened over the span of an hour inside a bathroom at the church.

According to investigators, it was all caught on camera in the classroom. That video footage was shown to the jury on Wednesday, but it was first seen by the church’s safety director last year.

One item prosecutors put forth Tuesday was a video interview of Hazlett conducted by a police investigator before any arrests were made. In the video, Hazlett can be heard telling the investigator that he touched the private parts of children and took pictures of them as well. During this portion of the court hearing, Hazlett was seen crying while watching the interrogation videos.

At least four lawsuits have been filed against NewSpring Church where Hazlett volunteered since news broke that he had been accused of molesting underage youth at the church.

Hazlett’s initial arrest stemmed from a charge which stated that Hazlett escorted a 3-year-old boy into a bathroom at the NewSpring Church and performed a sex act on him.

A lawsuit filed in late November 2018 claimed the church found 14 separate incidents of sexual abuse involving Hazlett and boys in a church daycare bathroom when it reviewed security camera footage from the previous 90 days.

Copyright 2019 WCSC. All rights reserved.