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In second trial, former B-N piano teacher convicted of sexually assaulting student

Aaron Parlier walks into court
David Proeber
/
The Pantagraph (Pool) file
Aaron Parlier, center, a former Bloomington piano teacher, arrives for his first bench trial in McLean County court on Oct. 18, 2021.
Updated: April 19, 2022 at 11:37 AM CDT
This story was updated to reflect that Judge Casey Costigan delivered his verdict late Tuesday morning.

A former Bloomington-Normal piano teacher was found guilty Tuesday during his second trial on charges that he sexually assaulted a student.

Aaron Parlier was convicted on all counts of predatory sexual assault and child pornography charges. Judge Casey Costigan delivered the verdict Tuesday after a brief bench trial. Parlier will be sentenced July 8.

Parlier was charged in 2018 with sexually assaulting six minor girls, all students that took private piano lessons from him. In his first trial in October, he also was convicted of predatory criminal sexual assault and child pornography, and was sentenced to 450 years in prison.

On Monday, Parlier faced his second bench trial involving another alleged victim who testified that her piano instruction at age 6 turned into an ongoing sexual assault two years later. At age 14, she received an engagement ring from her teacher and continued to have sexual contact with him until she was 16 or 17, according to her testimony.

In closing arguments Tuesday, prosecutors said Parlier began grooming his piano students for sexual activity when they were as young as 8. Assistant State’s Attorney Erika Reynolds said Parlier was not involved in a “forbidden love” with a teenage girl.

“He is actually attracted to 8-year-old children,” said Reynolds, referring to the alleged victim named in current charges and the victim in his previous trial.

Parlier was in a position of trust or authority when he sexually assaulted the alleged victim, said Reynolds.

“He behaved as a family friend and stepped into this parental-like role,” said Reynolds, emphasizing an element of several of the criminal sexual assault charges.

The prosecutor also noted that Parlier admitted to the sexual misconduct in his interview with a Bloomington Police detective.

“It is clear they engaged in a sexual relationship that lasted years,” said Reynolds.

In his closing remarks, defense lawyer Joseph Moran asked the judge to consider the “blurred memory” of the victim when it comes to specific dates and what occurred. To prove the most serious charge — predatory criminal sexual assault — the victim must be under age 13, said Moran.

“We can’t choose which evidence we like. The problem is there is too much doubt” about the age of the victim when sexual activity escalated, said Moran.

“It appears the state can’t prove their case without using the statements voluntarily given by my client,” said Moran. The defense argued that Parlier was forthcoming and honest about his involvement with the minors, even admitting to what were clearly illegal acts.

The state’s evidence against Parlier included a video allegedly depicting the defendant having sexual intercourse with the teenage girl. Bloomington Police detective John Heinlen identified the two as Parlier and the alleged victim, based on his familiarity with their voices from interviews. In the video, the pair refer to her age as being 15 and their engagement.

Parlier chose not to testify at the trial.

The judge previously ruled that Parlier is entitled to six separate trials on the sexual misconduct charges.

In her opening remarks Monday, Reynolds said an essay written in September 2017 by a third alleged victim, a senior at a local high school, set off a far-reaching police investigation involving Parlier. The student wrote about her piano teacher who recorded her as she practiced piano in the nude.

The student’s disclosure “opened up flood gates that police could not have anticipated,” said Reynolds. A 2013 police report involving Parlier and a girl he was seen hugging at the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts was reviewed as part of the new investigation. That girl would later share accusations of sexual crimes and become the state’s chief witness against Parlier this week.

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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.
Lyndsay Jones is a reporter at WGLT. She joined the station in 2021. You can reach her at lljone3@ilstu.edu.
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