JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A second-grade teacher and son of a Jacksonville City Council President and former Jacksonville mayor, Thomas Hazouri, Jr., was arrested Wednesday.
The 40-year-old faces 25 charges of possession of child pornography according to jail records. Each potential charge relates to "10 or more images" of "photographs/sexual performance by a child." He is being held on a $625,000 bond.
According to the arrest and booking report, all 25 counts involve photographs/sexual performance by a child age 10 or older.
Hazouri worked as a second-grade teacher and coach at Mayport Elementary school until he was “reassigned” in early August. School district officials received notice from the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office of a “pending investigation” into Tommy Hazouri on Aug. 6. At that point, he had not been arrested, but a search warrant was served on his house and items confiscated.
On Thursday, DCPS Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene released the following statement:
“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.”
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Tommy Hazouri Jr. began his career with DCPS as a substitute teacher in 2003 until he transitioned into a full-time teaching position in 2006 at Kernan Trail Elementary School where he taught second, fourth and fifth-grade students. He resigned from DCPS in 2016 and returned in 2018 where he taught fourth grade at Englewood Elementary. Tommy Hazouri Jr. then taught the second grade at Mayport Elementary from 2019 to 2020.
Court records show the younger Hazouri is in the midst of foreclosure proceedings and being sued by a local credit union for more than $20,000 in unpaid credit card debt. He had a prior criminal arrest in 2000 for possession of cannabis, but those charges were dropped.
Tommy Hazouri Sr. served as the city’s mayor from 1987-91. He was also a state Representative from 1974-86 and a Duval County School Board Member from 2004-2012. He currently serves as the City Council President but has been at home recovering since undergoing lung transplant surgery in July.
The younger Hazouri did not follow his father into public service, but was a fixture of his early political career, photographed as a 6-year-old working as a “page” on the floor of the Florida House of Representatives, and as an 11-year-old on the 14th floor of the old City Hall when his father was Mayor.
We reached out to Tommy Hazouri Sr., who declined to discuss the case against his son. “I’m not going to comment to the media on something that’s a family matter,” he said.
He referred questions to his son’s attorney, Hank Coxe.
Coxe told First Coast News, “we are disappointed we weren’t given an opportunity to handle this in a different way ...
Coxe said they had offered to have Hazouri turn himself in, rather than having him taken into custody, but were not given that option.
I had informed the State Attorney weeks ago that if there were any decision to arrest Mr. Hazouri that he remained available; where he remained available; and I assumed he could voluntarily surrender whenever it was requested.
"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. I was later advised that the Sheriff’s Office refused to agree to a voluntary surrender," Coxe said. "It is beyond disappointing that it occurred this way, but it has, so we move on to more critical issues."
At first appearance court Thursday, Hazouri’s bond was reduced from $625,000 -- $25,000 for each charge -- to $25,000 total.
"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," Coxe said.
If he is released, he will be required to wear an ankle monitor, have no contact with minors and cannot use the internet. His arraignment is set for Sept. 10.