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Lewd instructions to child cited in opening statements at former piano teacher's trial

Aaron Parlier walks into court
David Proeber
The Pantagraph (Pool)
Aaron Parlier, center, a former Bloomington piano teacher, arrives for his bench trial in McLean County court Monday, Oct. 18, 2021.
Updated: October 18, 2021 at 5:57 PM CDT
This story was updated Monday afternoon after additional testimony during the trial.

Aaron Parlier looked away from the screen in the courtroom on Monday, and the images of a minor girl engaging in sexual acts with him.

The 40-year-old former piano teacher is on trial for child pornography and predatory criminal sexual assault involving the child depicted in nearly an hour of video played during his bench trial. The disturbing video showed the girl, who was about 9 years old at the time, according to testimony from her mother, following Parlier’s directions without hesitation and talking casually about sexual acts as the interaction was captured on video.

The mother testified Monday that Parlier came to the family’s Bloomington home for weekly, private lessons he taught to the girl and her older brother, starting in 2006, when the girl was about 6. The lessons took place in a room just off the foyer of the home, she said.

The girl took lessons from Parlier until the 8th grade, said the mother.

Parlier, of Bloomington, was charged in 2018 with 38 felony counts accusing him of sexual assault and child pornography involving six students between 2009 and 2016. Parlier is entitled to separate trials on each victim’s allegations, Judge Casey Costigan previously ruled.

In his opening remarks, defense lawyer Gal Pissetzky said it was the young girl and not the piano teacher who planned the sexual intercourse charged by the state and depicted in the video. The defense has challenged the state’s estimate of the girl’s age.

Parlier “did not force himself on her or anybody else,” said Pissetzky. The instructions were for sexual acts the child was “ready and willing” to perform, said Parlier’s lawyer.

In other testimony, the judge listened to a 40-minute audio interview of Parlier by Bloomington police detective John Heinlen recorded on Dec. 5, 2017. Parlier admitted during the interview to having a sexual relationship with one student and sending sexually explicit photos to another student, who also was told to rehearse while nude as a way of combatting stage fright. Parlier denied making videos of the naked student’s rehearsal.

Parlier told Heinlen he “didn’t put up much of a protest” when a student he estimated to be 15 or 16 made sexual advances towards him when he was about 30.

When asked by the detective if he would change any of his actions with students over the prior six years, Parlier responded, “I would have been more cognizant (the student) was in need of help and not physical comfort.” He said he would have gone to the girl’s mother with his concerns for her mental health and history of self-harm.

Authorities opened their investigation into Parlier after a minor wrote about her relationship with the piano teacher in a school essay that was turned over to DCFS by school staff.

The trial is expected to conclude Tuesday. State’s Attorney Don Knapp said the state is considering one final witness. The defense has not disclosed if Parlier will testify.

If convicted, Parlier faces life in prison on the charges which carry consecutive sentences up to 30 years on each count.

Edith began her career as a reporter with The DeWitt County Observer, a weekly newspaper in Clinton. From 2007 to June 2019, Edith covered crime and legal issues for The Pantagraph, a daily newspaper in Bloomington, Illinois. She previously worked as a correspondent for The Pantagraph covering courts and local government issues in central Illinois.
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