DORCHESTER COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD) – Trial for the man accused of sexually assaulting children a megachurch in North Charleston is underway.
Opening arguments in the trial began Wednesday morning at the Dorchester County Courthouse in St. George. Jacop Hazlett is facing multiple charges in connection to molesting children at NewSpring Church in North Charleston on November 25, 2018.
The prosecutor told the jury that in this case, they would see evidence beyond all doubt of Hazlett’s guilt.
Hazlett’s defense attorney then asked the jury to only weigh the evidence presented to them. He said if they did that, nobody would question their verdict.
The first person to testify in the case was the mother of one of the little boys who was at the “Treehouse” room for kids at NewSpring Church on November 25, 2018. Through tears, the mother explained how that was their first time visiting NewSpring.
She said her son was hesitant to be left in the 3-5-year-old room and testified that Hazlett got on his knees to encourage her son to go into the classroom.
Several other parents then testified about their children, all young boys, who were in the room that day. The prosecutor said the security video of the incident captured four boys being molested by Hazlett.
An investigator testified that he interviewed Hazlett about what happened. Video from that interview was played in court. In the interview, Hazlett admitted to touching and rubbing the young boy’s private parts and said he put his mouth on one child. He told the investigator he erased photos he took of the children because “it was seriously eating at my soul.”
In the interview, Hazlett told the investigator that even as a teenager, he was struggling with being attracted to 5-10-year-old children.
Hazlett’s defense attorney declined opportunities to cross-examine the witnesses.
The court is preparing to show the jury that security camera video of Hazlett in the acts he is accused of committing.
The indictments against Hazlett include one count of criminal sexual conduct with a minor in the 1st degree, three counts of criminal sexual conduct with a minor in the 3rd degree, and two counts of criminal sexual exploitation of a minor in the first degree for four victims.
A few weeks ago, Hazlett turned down an offer to plead guilty in exchange for 50 years in prison.