Former church volunteer accused of molesting children rejects plea deal

Updated: Nov. 8, 2019 at 5:07 PM EST
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ST. GEORGE, S.C. (WCSC) - The man accused of sexually abusing children at a North Charleston church where he volunteered rejected a plea bargain in a Dorchester County courtroom Friday.

Under the deal, Jacop Hazlett would pleaded guilty to a total of 15 indictments, one for each victim, and he would have been sentenced to 50 years.

After rejecting the agreement, Hazlett now faces a trial set to begin on Dec. 9.

Hazlett faces a total of 23 indictments:

  • 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

The plea agreement he rejected would have eliminated eight of those 23 charges.

Prosecutors now say they will move ahead with three of those 23 charges at the December trial. That trial will include one count of each of the above, all of which are associated with one alleged victim. The first-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor charge carries a possible sentence of up to 25 years in prison.

Prosecutors expect additional charges to be tried at a later date.

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.

Hazlett gave an interview to police on Nov. 27, 2018, telling detectives that he inappropriately touched, and took video as well as photos of numerous children at the church, according to the affidavit. Hazlett also told police he was sexually attracted to young males and knew his actions were wrong, the affidavit stated.

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.

Preparations are now underway for Hazlett’s trial.

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