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Former piano teacher Aaron Parlier declines to testify in his 2nd sexual abuse trial

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.
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 on Monday, Oct. 18, 2021.

Videos of Aaron Parlier’s sexual activity with a 15-year-old girl were displayed in court on Monday as part of the state’s case against the former piano teacher from Bloomington who is accused of sexually assaulting six minor girls.

The videos which contained the voices but not the faces of two people having sex, were shown during testimony from Bloomington police detective John Heinlen. The detective identified the pair as Parlier and an alleged victim. In the video, both Parlier and the girl referred to her as being 15.

At one point, Parlier asked the girl, “Whose fiancée are you?” She answered, “Yours.”

Parlier’s sexual contact with the young piano student started when she was about 8, sitting next to him during lessons, and escalated to sexual intercourse and a relationship that continued until she was about 14, the alleged victim testified earlier at Parlier’s bench trial on a dozen criminal charges.

Parlier, 41, was charged in February 2018 with 38 felony counts accusing him of predatory sexual assault of a minor and child pornography involving his former students. The allegations span illegal acts from 2009 to 2016. He already is serving a 450-year sentence on sexual assault and pornography charges related to another student.

Parlier expressed reluctance about his decision not to testify at the conclusion of the trial late Monday afternoon. He asked for additional time to confer with his lawyer before saying, “I will not testify at this time.”

When Judge Casey Costigan asked if he understood that he may not have another chance to testify at the trial, Parlier responded, “I unfortunately understand that.”

During her testimony, the alleged victim, now 24, recalled starting lessons at age 6 and the circumstances of the initial abuse.

“I was young, still in elementary school,” the witness told prosecutor Erika Reynolds.

“The first inappropriate thing he did was put his hand down my shirt,” she said. The interactions took place in a room at a local music shop used by Parlier for lessons, his home and at the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts (BCPA), according to the woman.

When asked about the number of times she was inappropriately touched, the witness said “more times that I could count.”

Before her 13th birthday, the abuse became more intense and frequent, the woman testified. “Anytime I was in contact with him,” the two had sex, she said.

When she was 14, Parlier bought her an engagement ring of rose gold with diamonds. There were also gifts of a dog and concert tickets.

The prosecutor asked the woman about Parlier’s role in her life.

“At face value, he was a piano teacher. He took a very parental role, protective role,” said the witness.

The piano teacher and the teen stayed in close contact after she stopped lessons when she was 11 and her school activities conflicted with lessons. He attended parties at her family’s home and took her to movies and on other outings, she said.

Parlier’s contact with the girl came under scrutiny when her mother noticed texts and calls between the two. Parlier “said he was afraid my mom was going to go to the police,” she said.

The alleged victim’s mother spoke with police, but the girl denied any misconduct. “I was trying to move on. I didn’t want to acknowledge that anything had happened,” the woman testified.

Six separate trials

Police opened their investigation into the abuse after another alleged victim wrote an essay about her relationship with the piano teacher when she was a senior in high school. The essay was forwarded to authorities.

The victim who is the focus of the current trial was on police radar because of an incident in 2013 when the girl and Parlier were seen embracing at the BCPA. He was interviewed by police at the time.

During her testimony Monday, the alleged victim denied to defense lawyer Joseph Moran that she had ever threatened to go to the police if Parlier did not buy her gifts.

Costigan previously ruled that Parlier is entitled to six separate trials on the accusations related to six alleged victims. The judge also allowed the state to use statements from several witnesses who are not named in charges, but have accused Parlier of misconduct.

Heinlen testified that he interviewed Parlier in December 2017 after he received reports of misconduct involving another minor girl. The interview took place at the Bloomington DCFS office.

In an audio of the interview played in court, Parlier admitted to having sexual intercourse with the girl named in charges at issue in the trial, but maintained that she instigated the contact.

Parlier told the detective his student was “a good kid, very bubbly,” but she had problems living at home with a single mother.

The girl wanted someone to talk to, said Parlier. “I tried to be as accommodating as I could be without giving the wrong impression. She seemed very fragile,” Parlier told the officer.

Parlier acknowledged he “didn’t put up much of a protest” when the girl moved toward him in a sexual manner after an outing in Bloomington.

The music teacher estimated 15 sexual encounters with the girl during the time the two knew one another.

The state also played 15 video clips of Parlier with a minor who was the named victim in Parlier’s first trial on sexual and child pornography charges. The girl on the tape directs disparaging remarks toward the alleged victim in the second trial. “You mean nothing to Aaron,” the girl in the video said.

Parlier swiveled slowly in his chair and did not look directly at the screen as the disturbing videos were shown.

Closing arguments are scheduled for Tuesday morning. In convicted, Parlier faces mandatory life in prison for predatory criminal sexual assault and an additional 216 years on the sexual assault and pornography charges.

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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