NewSpring Church volunteer molested boys 14 times at North Charleston campus, per lawsuit

Jacop Hazlett in bond court (WCIV).png
Jacop Hazlett in bond court (WCIV)

NORTH CHARLESTON, SC (WCIV) - A former NewSpring Church children's class volunteer charged with sexually abusing a 3-year-old boy is now accused of molesting children 14 times over a 90 day period at the mega-church's North Charleston campus.

Fourteen is how many incidents of abuse were reportedly caught on camera. Ninety days is how far back the church's security camera video is archived. The suspect, 28-year-old Jacop Hazlett, had been volunteering at the church eight months.

The allegations are made in a civil lawsuit filed Wednesday, Nov. 28, in Dorchester County by parents of one of the children who was reportedly abused. The parents in the lawsuit accused NewSpring Church of gross negligence for allowing the abuse to take place.

Hazlett was arrested Tuesday, Nov. 27, by the Dorchester County Sheriff's Office on one charge of criminal sexual conduct with a minor related to a Sunday, Nov. 25, abuse incident reported the following day.

Upon being told of the Sunday, Nov. 25, abuse incident, NewSpring Church officials say they on Monday, Nov. 26, reviewed the church's extant security footage of the 3-5 year-olds children's church room.

It was then church officials apparently discovered video evidence of Hazlett's other repeated abuses, including a Sept. 30 incident in which Hazlett reportedly assaulted the plaintiffs' child and took photos of the boy's genitals, according to the lawsuit.

Suzanne Swift, a spokesperson for NewSpring, says the church after learning of Nov. 25's abuse incident took immediate steps to prevent Hazlett from gaining further access to the church, and reported the abuse incident to law enforcement.

Further criminal charges over the 13 other alleged incidents have not yet been filed, according to court records.

All fourteen known incidents reportedly took place in the bathroom of a the children's church classroom in which Hazlett volunteered, per the lawsuit.

The bathroom was part of the classroom, not a separate room, and had "half doors" which were always open at the top, allowing the room's overhead security surveillance camera to see inside.

Hazlett was aware of the camera, and repeatedly looked back at it and back over his shoulder to make sure no other adults were coming into the room while he was molesting the children, according to the lawsuit.

But the parents who've filed the lawsuit claim other NewSpring staff and volunteers should've known about the abuse regardless of Hazlett's attempts to conceal his behavior, because of the room's security camera.

The security camera footage in the building — including the children's room — was fed live back to a monitor, which was supposedly being overseen by another church volunteer, according to the lawsuit.

However, Hazlett's behavior was never reported prior to Nov. 25, according to the lawsuit, meaning the church failed "to adopt, implement, and/or enforce adequate policies and procedures related to the monitoring of security footage."

A magistrate has denied bond for Hazlett, who remains in jail awaiting a secondary hearing with a circuit judge on his criminal charge. That hearing is set for January 14.