Orange County piano teacher convicted of molesting 8 girls over decades
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SANTA ANA, Calif. — An Orange County piano instructor was convicted Monday of molesting eight girls — with a ninth testifying as a witness in his trial — over 18 years.
John Mordecai Scott, 65, was initially accused of molesting 11 girls, but one did not wish to participate in the non-jury bench trial before Orange County Superior Court Judge Steve Bromberg, and charges related to another alleged victim were dismissed before the verdict.
Scott, who is scheduled to be sentenced May 13, faces 111 years to life in prison for his conviction on 26 sex-related counts. The defendant, who was out on bail during the trial, was immediately taken into custody when the verdict was announced.
The first crime occurred in 1996 with a girl whose breast was groped during one lesson and her legs spread at other times during a metronome-like exercise to work on timing in the music, Deputy District Attorney Kristin Bracic said in her opening statement of the trial.
She said Scott had the girl lie down on a piano bench while he lifted the waistband of her panties, then instructed the girl not to tell her parents.
The girl did not come forward until 2002, when she made a complaint to his former employer at Music Makers, but she was told he didn't work there anymore, Bracic said.
Another girl, who was 11 when she took lessons from Scott in his Lake Forest home, saw that he would leave pornographic magazines lying around the house, Bracic said.
Scott sexually assaulted that victim with his finger, claiming at the time he was a "doctor" examining her to see if she was developing normally, Bracic said. Scott, who also had a room in his home for photography, took semi-nude photos of the girl, Bracic said.
Another victim was 15 when she "took racy photos with the defendant," Bracic said.
While driving the teen to his home, he discussed his sex life, doing drugs and tried to persuade her to put on a G-string bikini for photographs, Bracic said. The girl refused, but did put on various dresses for photos as he insisted she undress in front of him, Bracic said.
At one point he showed her pornographic images on a computer and, "He said, `You know, you could do internet porn,"' Bracic said.
The teen declined, but did model lingerie before cutting the session short when she looked over and saw he had disrobed, Bracic said.
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"She says, no, no, we're done here," Bracic said, adding the defendant "apologized profusely" and implored her not to tell anyone.
The teen went to police, but no charges were brought at the time, Bracic said.
In 2002-2005, another victim was 7 years old when she started taking lessons from Scott at her home, Bracic said. The defendant waited for times when they were alone and that, "It began with tickling," she added.
Once he walked in on her as she relieved herself in the bathroom under the guise of ensuring she washed her hands, Bracic said.
Scott groped her once and slipped in pages from pornographic magazines in the music sheets, Bracic said.
Because Scott was a family friend, the girl worried no one would believe her, so she once hid a copy of the adult magazine when he was out of the room and planned to show it to her family later, Bracic said.
Scott left the house, but later returned, glaring at the girl as he hurriedly looked for the magazine, which he found hidden behind a curtain, Bracic said.
That incident prompted the girl to finally tell her mother, and it was the last lesson, Bracic said.
In another incident in May 2006, Scott nearly got caught as he approached a 17-year-old girl on the street to pay her to model for pictures, Bracic said. That alleged victim did not participate in the trial.
Two narcotics officers saw the activity and stopped to question him, and Scott said initially he thought the girl was 18, Bracic said. A report was taken, but no charges filed.
In June 2007 he showed pornographic images to an 11-year-old girl during a lesson at his home and suggested she pose for pictures in a leopard- print bathing suit, which she refused to do, Bracic said. Despite telling her parents about the incident, no charges were filed at the time.
Between May 2010 and October 2013, another girl took lessons from when she was 8 to 11 at Coast Band Music in Mission Viejo, Bracic said. The defendant "took a lot of pictures of her, mostly doing gymnastics," the prosecutor said.
In some of the pictures, she was "sipping water from phallic-shaped water bottles," Bracic said. He also used the "metronome game of spreading her legs to the music," the prosecutor added.
In January 2011 through July 2014, another girl took lessons from him beginning when she was 8, Bracic said. By that time, Scott was divorced from his wife and was giving lessons at Coast Band Music and his home, she said.
Once, while the girl's mother waited in the car, he did a lesson where he "took a ton of pictures" of the girl as well as "videos of her jumping on his bed" while showing her pictures of nude women, suggesting, "You should pose like this," Bracic said.
The girl said she did not want to take lessons from him anymore, but after some negotiations she agreed to one last make-up lesson at Coast Music, and after that she told her family what had been happening, Bracic said.
That sparked another police investigation.
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Another victim took lessons from him from July 2011 through June 2014 beginning when she was 13, Bracic said. He did the "metronome" exercise with her, molested her over and under her clothes and showed her pornographic pictures, Bracic said.
The youngest alleged victim was 5 to 6 years old in September through May 2013 when she took lessons, Bracic said. That girl is autistic, the prosecutor added.
Bromberg dismissed charges related to that alleged victim.
Another victim took lessons in 2013-14 when she was 14 years old and the two engaged in "inappropriate talk" as he asked her about various sex acts and showed her "lesbian porn," Bracic said.
The Orange County Sheriff's Department investigation that led to the charges began in August 2014, Bracic said. Investigators found images of three girls in his files with some considered pornographic but "the vast majority" being child erotica, Bracic said.
Scott's attorney, Ed Munoz, told the judge his client "trained and instructed hundreds of people" over the years, including some students in their 80s and some as young as 5.
Munoz said his client "is rather an ordinary man" in many respects who has a "profound passion for music, and he was actually pretty good at it."
Scott was able to earn a living as a musician, but then a viral infection caused deafness in his left ear, ending his career, Munoz said. His wife encouraged him to take up photography, which he did, and he started offering piano lessons to make ends meet, the attorney said.
"He tried to meld (music and photography) together," Munoz said.
Scott is a "very demonstrative" and "needy person," who "likes to embrace and touch people — even the parents" of his students, Munoz said.
Scott would even provide photography for some of the parents for their businesses, Munoz said.
Are you or someone you know a recent survivor of sexual assault? Help is available. Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) provides a 24/7 national sexual assault hotline, which can be reached at 1-800-656-4673
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