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State: Jury Should Hear From Piano Students In Sexual Assault Case

Aaron Parlier
Bloomington Police
Aaron Parlier, left, in 2008 and again in 2011.

Seven of Aaron Parlier’s former piano students should be allowed to testify at the first of six jury trials the Bloomington man will face on charges accusing him of sexual assault and child pornography, a prosecutor argued on Friday.

Parlier, 39, was charged in 2018 with 38 felony counts, including predatory sexual assault of a minor and 23 counts of child pornography. Charges span Parlier’s contact with the alleged victims from 2009 to 2016.

Assistant State’s Attorney Erika Reynolds argued the jury considering child pornography charges involving one of six alleged victims should hear from others who have accused Parlier of sexual misconduct.

“It’s important the jury know the whole story here,” Reynolds told Judge Casey Costigan.  

According to authorities, the story started with a poem authored by one of the minors about being sexually assaulted by Parlier, her piano teacher. School officials notified police who began an investigation that led to criminal charges against Parlier.

“That’s how the ball got rolling,” said the prosecutor.

Testimony from the girl who wrote the poem and others could help jurors understand how Parlier's conduct went from a few lewd comments and inappropriate touches to sex with his students, said Reynolds.

In addition to the six victims identified in charges by their initials, police also interviewed two other students who accused Parlier of misconduct, but were not included in charges. The state is asking that those witnesses and three others with knowledge of the alleged crimes be allowed to testify at the first trial.

Potential evidence against Parlier includes descriptions from one former student of a years-long sexual relationship with her former piano teacher, according to the state. In his police interview, Parlier admitted he sent a sexually explicit photo to a girl for her opinion before sending it to his girlfriend, said Reynolds.

One former student told police she believed her teacher may have videotaped her practicing at the keyboard while she was nude, according to prosecutors.

The testimony of witnesses who could share allegations of crimes beyond those laid out in the pornography counts at the first trial could be prejudicial to the defense, argued Parlier's lawyer, Adam Bolotin. The state should be able to explain the timeline of charges without calling other alleged victims to testify, said the Chicago lawyer.

The testimony from multiple witnesses could create “a confusion of issues that becomes a trial within a trial within a trial,” said Bolotin.

Costigan earlier ruled that Parlier is entitled to six separate trials on allegations involving each victim.

Reynolds said the state will introduce videos allegedly created by Parlier of sexual activity with his students. Captions posted by Parlier on the videos identifies some of the minors, including their ages, said Reynolds.

“The defendant’s own video documentation proves that it happened,” said Reynolds.

Jurors should hear from a student who may have been one of Parlier’s earliest victims, said Reynolds.  Testimony from a minor girl who told police she quit lessons after her teacher “got handsy with her” around 2005 may represent the first step in what escalated to serious misconduct by Parlier, said the prosecutor.

A Bloomington police officer who reported seeing one of Parlier’s victims engage in what could in hindsight be viewed as troubling conduct also should testify at the first trial, Reynolds argued.

Before the criminal investigation began, Bloomington police Sgt. Ivy Thornton noticed one of the minors put her around Parlier as he played the piano at a high school prom, said Reynolds.

Costigan took the state’s motion under advisement, saying he will issue a ruling in about two weeks. A Jan. 11 hearing is set to review the status of the case. Parlier remains in the county jail.

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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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