Thomas Lester Hazouri Jr., began his career as a substitute teacher in 2003 and by 2006 had been hired as a full time elementary school teacher. Now the 40-year-old son of former mayor and current member of the City Council Thomas Hazouri Sr is behind bars on 25 counts of possession of child pornography.
The investigation began into Hazouri on July 2nd after a tip came into the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children concerning an email address that had been used to upload five images on March 26th containing child pornography.
On August 6th the Duval County School District (DCSD) was notified of an "pending investigation" into Hazouri. The school district responded by reassigning him to a position in which he would not have contact with children according to a statement released to parents by the DCSD Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene on the first day of school.
“It is both alarming and disappointing to learn that one of our teachers is alleged to have exploited children through such abhorrent activities. As soon as we learned of the investigation, we took immediate action to ensure he had no further interaction with any of our students. Like all educators and parents, our thoughts and empathy go out to all victims of any form of child abuse. This behavior should not exist anywhere, least of all among those individuals in the educational setting. The district will continue to cooperate with JSO and any other investigative agency, and we will take appropriate action.”
The same day that the school district was notified of an investigation, a search warrant was served at Hazouri's residence in which several electronic devices were confiscated. An analysis of those devices revealed hundreds of images of children being sexually exploited by adults. Investigators noted that there were additional, “non-exploitative” images located on his laptop which appeared to have been taken within a Mayport Elementary School classroom.
The investigators noted that the images were found on his personal laptop and didn't appear to depict children from the area. There were no inappropriate images found on his DCSD laptop.
On the evening of August 19th, Hazouri was arrested and booked into the Duval County Jail. His bond was initially set at $625,000 but was dramatically reduced on Friday to $25,000 raising many questions.
"Judge Charbula was correct in setting the bail at $625,000 based on what she was provided, the Court learned additional information about Mr. Hazouri and appropriately reduced the bond to $25,000," Hazouri's attorney Hank Coxe III was reported by News4Jax to have said.
The additional information that Coxe provided was that his client was already dealing with foreclosure proceedings and is being sued by a local credit union for approximately $22,000 in unpaid credit card debt.
Should Hazouri be released, he will be subject to GPS monitoring, not be allowed contact with any minors and must not use the internet. While there is a bond agency noted on his jail records now, there is also an active hold for Duval County.
Anticipating his potential release on Friday, a parent of a student was waiting outside of the jail hoping for a chance to speak with him.
“My main concern is to know what those photos are that were seen, there with those children, and to know if my daughter was one of those in the picture,” Stephen Williams said to News4Jax. “Why was he ever around kids? More than anything, I just want to know what those photos are. I think I’ll ask him about that all right.”
Hazouri's arraignment is scheduled for September 10th.