Trial starts for church volunteer accused of sexual abuse of at least 12 children

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DORCHESTER COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD)— The South Carolina man accused of sexually abusing young children at NewSpring Church in North Charleston heads to trial this week.

Jacop Hazlett is facing 23 indictments in Dorchester County.

He was first arrested in November of 2018 after he was caught on camera sexually abusing a three-year-old in the bathroom of NewSpring Church.

Hazlett volunteered in the children’s program at the church at the time of the alleged abuse.

He confessed to taking explicit pictures and videos in the childcare area of the North Charleston church.

Police say they found images of at least five victims on his cell phone and more victims came forward following his arrest.

Last month, November 2019, he rejected a plea deal offered by a judge at the Dorchester County Courthouse.

It included pleading guilty to 15 indictments in exchange for 50 years in prison.

 Several victims and their families are suing Hazlett and NewSpring Church.

According to the lawsuit, he started volunteering at the church in March of 2018.

One lawsuit alleges the church did not adequately investigate his background before letting him volunteer with young children.

Another alleges the church’s security team was not properly trained to monitor zones of cameras in the church.

The indictments against Hazlett include 12 counts of third-degree sexual exploitation of a minor, nine counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor, and two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor. A total of 23 indictments in Dorchester County.

According to Judge Goodstein, the pre-trial is expected to begin Monday afternoon at the Dorchester County Courthouse in Saint George.

Tuesday morning at 9 a.m., the jury selection will begin.

Immediately following the selection of the jury panel, the trial will begin with opening statements.

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