Lawsuit: Church found 14 sexual abuse incidents involving accused volunteer
CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - A lawsuit filed Wednesday claims NewSpring Church found 14 separate incidents of sexual abuse involving Jacop Robert Lee Hazlett, 28, and boys in a church daycare bathroom when it reviewed its security camera footage from the past 90 days.
Parents of a separate 3-year-old boy from the charges filed Wednesday are suing NewSpring Church and Hazlett claiming the church failed to properly screen and interview Hazlett before he was brought on and did not enforce adequate polices related to monitoring security footage.
The lawsuit claims security footage shows Hazlett took photos of the 3-year-old boy’s genitals after he followed the boy into the restroom and sexually abused the child for three minutes on Sept. 30, The suit states that Hazlett can be seen in the footage keeping a looking for approaching adults and looking toward the security camera.
Mt. Pleasant attorney Josh Slavin is representing the family who filed the lawsuit.
“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, Slavin said. “They just missed it.”
The alleged incident happened in the restroom for the 3 and 4-year-old child daycare room, the suit states. The security camera shows the entire daycare room and the bathroom is located in the back of the room. The bathroom door is split into upper and lower halves, and the upper half remains open when a child uses the bathroom, according to the lawsuit. The church only stores 90 days worth of camera footage, the suit stated.
The lawsuit states the boy’s parents found out about the lawsuit on Nov. 27 and had noticed a change in the boy’s behavior which included him screaming that he didn’t want to go to church or the daycare. The parents are seeking actual and punitive damages.
“We know of 14 victims in 90 days of footage. There could be countless more victims that we just don’t know more about yet," Slavin said.
Hazlett was denied bond Wednesday on charges that he performed oral sex on a child in a church bathroom on Nov. 25.
Church spokeswoman Susan Swift said Wednesday that the church did a thorough background check on Hazlett before he started volunteering at the end of March. Swift said that background check came back clean. The background check included running his social security number and a search of the national criminal database and the national sex offender database, she said.
Swift said the church has not been served with the lawsuit and cannot comment.
Church officials are asking any parents who believe their child may be a victim to contact police.
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