Former church volunteer faces 10 new charges related to sexual abuse of children

VIDEO: Former church volunteer faces 10 new charges related to sexual abuse of children

DORCHESTER COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - A man accused of sexually abusing children at a North Charleston church where he volunteered was indicted Thursday on a total of 10 new charges.

Jacop Hazlett, faces three new counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor and seven counts of sexual exploitation of a minor, according to First Assistant Solicitor Don Sorenson of the 1st Circuit Solicitor’s Office.

Sorenson said the charges are related to five newly-identified alleged victims, bringing the total number of alleged victims to 15.

Counting the latest charges, Hazlett now faces a total of 23 indictments, Sorenson said:

  • Two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor
  • Nine counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor
  • 12 counts of sexual exploitation of a minor

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. Lawsuits claim Hazlett was working with the KidSpring children ministry and daycare program at the time of the incident.

A lawsuit filed in November 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.

Hazlett was initially charged with one count of first-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor in November. Five counts of sexual exploitation of a minor in the first degree were filed in December, along with eight counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor.

In December, North Charleston Police Maj. Scott Perry said the investigation involved 12 alleged victims. It is not clear whether the five victims included in the indictment are among the 12 North Charleston Police identified.

Hazlett had been prosecuted when he was 17 in 2007 in Columbiana County, Ohio, on a charge of gross sexual imposition. Court documents stated he was accused of having sexual conduct with a child. Hazlett eventually agreed to plead guilty to a lesser charge of attempted felony assault, which would have been a third-degree felony if had been committed by an adult.

NewSpring Church spokesperson Suzanne Swift said in December the church performed a background check that included verification of Hazlett’s Social Security number, address history, National Criminal Database Search, National Sex Offender Search and re-verification of no records of criminal convictions or use of aliases.

It is not clear why Hazlett’s conviction in Ohio did not show up in the background check NewSpring performed before allowing him to volunteer.

NewSpring Church is based in Anderson and operates 14 church campuses throughout South Carolina. The suit states the church, which the South Carolina Secretary of State describes as a nonprofit organization, collected more than $40 million in tithes in 2017 and owns significant property throughout the state.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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