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Verdict expected Friday for Bloomington piano teacher accused of sexually assaulting his students

Aaron Parlier
David Proeber
/
The Pantagraph (Pool)
Aaron Parlier, a former Bloomington piano teacher, listens to the charges lodged against him at the start of his bench trial in McLean County court Monday, Oct. 18, 2021.

A judge will issue a verdict Friday in the bench trial of a former Bloomington piano teacher charged with filming his alleged sexual assaults of a student depicted in graphic video shown during the two-day trial.

Aaron Parlier, 40, is charged with predatory criminal sexual assault and creating child pornography.

In closing arguments Tuesday, prosecutor Erika Reynolds said “the videos speak for themselves” in their lewd depictions of a man in his 30s engaging in sexual acts with a child.

The prosecutor argued that the girl is under the age of 13, a requirement for the state to meet its burden to prove predatory criminal sexual assault. Testimony from the girl’s mother is sufficient to prove age, said Reynolds.

Defense lawyer Adam Bolotin argued that the child’s language and mannerisms were not those of a pre-teen. The video “does not show a childhood innocence,” said Bolotin.

In rebuttal, Reynolds said the adult level of language is not surprising, given the abuse the child may have endured over more than three years as Parlier’s student.

“Of course she’s not acting innocent. This defendant stole her innocence,” said Reynolds.

Judge Casey Costigan took the case under advisement.

Parlier first came to the attention of authorities in late 2017 after a student penned an essay about her sexual interactions with her piano teacher. In an interview with a Bloomington police detective, Parlier admitted to engaging in sexual acts more than a dozen times with a minor he described as a troubled child who needed a father figure in her life.

As the investigation unfolded, more students shared stories with police about their time with Parlier. In 2018, Parlier was charged with 38 felony counts involving six students between 2009 and 2016. He is accused of sexually assaulting and videotaping his alleged victims.

The child at the center of this week’s trial started private piano lessons with Parlier when she was about 6 and, by the time she was 9, became a victim of ongoing sexual abuse by her piano teacher, according to testimony from her mother. Disturbing video clips collected by police from Parlier’s computer showed a young girl following Parlier’s instructions as the two engaged in sexual acts.

The state and defense disagreed on the child’s age at the time she was depicted on the video.

In his opening remarks, defense lawyer Gal Pissetzky characterized the girl as “ready and willing” to be involved in the sexual activity. Parlier, the lawyer said, “did not force himself on her or anybody else.”

In the courtroom for the trial was defense lawyer Adam Ghrist, who represents the victim under the state’s victims’ right law.

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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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