Teacher and son of City Council President Tommy Hazouri arrested on 25 child-porn charges

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Florida Times-Union | by Dan Scanlan | August 24, 2020

Thomas Lester Hazouri Jr., a second-grade teacher and son of the Jacksonville City Council president and former mayor, was arrested Wednesday, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

He is charged with 25 counts of possession of child pornography and jailed on $625,000 bail, Sheriff’s Office records show. However, court records later showed the bail reduced to $25,000 with conditions of not having any contact with minors or the internet.

Along with photographs of “child erotica or age-difficult pornography,” his arrest warrant says “non-exploitive pictures of children” were found that were apparently taken in a Mayport Elementary School classroom while Hazouri taught there. That prompted a note to parents from Principal Katie O’Connell on the first day of school, alerting them to Hazouri’s arrest.

“We are in contact with JSO as they investigate,” O’Connell said. “Our Office of Professional Standards is also investigating. I can also confirm that Mr. Hazouri was reassigned out of the classroom in late summer when we were first notified of an investigation. Again, I am beyond disappointed to share this news.”

Hazouri’s attorney, Hank Coxe III, said he had been working with the State Attorney’s Office on the case, saying his client “could voluntarily surrender whenever it was requested” if a decision to arrest him was made. He learned of the arrest Wednesday night.

“I received a call from an assistant state attorney that Mr. Hazouri had been arrested a minute earlier, exactly where he had been for this same period of time,” Coxe said. “I was later advised that the Sheriff’s Office refused to agree to a voluntary surrender. It is beyond disappointing that it occurred this way, but it has, so we move on to more critical issues.”

Hazouri, 40, was a teacher and coach at Mayport Elementary school until he was reassigned in early August, according to school district officials. School district officials said he was hired first as a substitute from 2003 to 2006, then was as a full-time teacher at Kernan Trail Elementary School. He taught there for a decade, then resigned in 2016. He returned in September 2018 at Englewood Elementary School, then moved to Mayport in 2019.

The school district received notice from the Sheriff’s Office of a pending investigation into him on Aug. 6, and he was removed from the classroom.

Superintendent Diana Greene said it is “alarming and disappointing” to learn of the arrest of someone who is charged with exploiting 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,” Greene said. “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 25-page warrant states that investigators received a tip on July 2 from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that five files of child pornography had been uploaded on March 26. The email address of the user was linked to Hazouri. Four of those images depicted child pornography, one showing a woman “as she continues to sexually batter the child,” the warrant said.

A forensic examination of items seized on Aug. 6 from his home revealed child pornography, one showing a boy with a man, his genitals exposed, while another showed a nude boy, the warrant said. A number of other photos showed nude children, many with naked adults.

Duval County court records show foreclosure proceedings against Hazouri and a home in Jacksonville Beach have been ongoing since early February. A local credit union also filed a lawsuit against him on May 28 for about $22,000 in unpaid credit card debt. 

His father, Tommy Hazouri Sr., was Jacksonville’s mayor from 1987 to 1991 after serving as a state representative from 1974 to 1986. The senior Hazouri was also a Duval County School Board member from 2004 to 2012. He is the current City Council president but has been recovering from lung transplant surgery last month.