JACKSONVILLE, Fla — A federal grand jury formally indicted former elementary school teacher Thomas Hazouri Jr. Wednesday on a charge of distributing sexually explicit images of minors.
The former Mayport Elementary School teacher was arrested in August on state charges of possession of sexually explicit photos and videos of children and later rearrested on similar federal charges.
Because the coronavirus pandemic has slowed the work of a grand jury, Hazouri was not formally charged until Wednesday.
The single federal charge in the indictment says Hazouri, "did knowingly distribute visual depictions using any means and facility of interstate commerce, when the production of the visual depictions involved the use of minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct and the visual depictions were of such conduct.”
The indictment can be read in its entirety below:
On Wednesday, First Coast News spoke with Christina Peterman, a Jacksonville mother who says Hazouri was her daughter's teacher at Mayport Elementary last school year.
As Hazouri remains in federal custody, Peterman said the arrest has been on her mind for weeks.
"Out of all the schools in Duval, you would think, 'Oh it's never my kids' school. Never,'" Peterman said. "It's going through my mind, and I've lost countless nights of sleep trying to wrap my head around it."
Peterman first heard about the arrest through local news. When she realized it was a Mayport Elementary teacher, she showed Hazouri's photo to her daughter.
"I had to ask her," she said. "I was like, 'Is this your teacher?' And she goes, 'Oh that's Mr. Hazouri!'"
Peterman said at that moment, her stomach sank.
"You send your kid off to school being protected, knowing that they're being taught by someone that cares for your child," Peterman said.
After learning the federal complaint against Hazouri includes two exploitative pictures of a female student in Hazouri's classroom, Peterman said instant concern set in.
"There are no words. It's disgusting," she said. "Kids should be safe, kids need to be safe. That's what adults are supposed to do, protect them."
While Peterman has not been contacted by investigators, she says the whole situation still bothers her, even if her child was not in a picture. She's decided to keep her daughter learning out of the classroom for some time.