California & USA

O.C. piano teacher faces 111 years in prison for molesting eight students.

 

A well-known Orange County piano instructor faces up to 111 years in prison following his conviction for molesting eight girls over nearly two decades.

John Mordecai Scott, 65, was arrested nearly eight years ago on suspicion of molesting some of his students at his Lake Forest home as well as at Coast Band Music in Mission Viejo. The number of accusers quickly escalated as Orange County sheriff’s detectives interviewed more students. One of the children abused in 2013 was a 5-year-old, authorities said.

Scott ultimately was accused of molesting 11 girls. One chose not to participate in the recent trial before Orange County Superior Court Judge Steve Bromberg. Charges related to another were dismissed before Monday’s verdict, in which Scott was convicted of 26 felony and misdemeanor counts of various sexual acts with minors, possession of child pornography and exhibiting lewd materials to minors. After being out of jail on a $1-million bond since 2014, Scott was taken into custody Monday.

The case against Scott began in August 2014 when Orange County sheriff’s detectives began an extensive investigation into the music teacher. Working with a federal sex crimes task force, they ultimately recovered images of three girls from his computer files.

Attorney Genie Harrison, who represents one of the victims, said Scott had a camera with him during many of his music lessons. They said that he was allowed to stay in the Coast Band Music store with students even after the shop was closed to the public and that no one from the store ever checked up on him during lessons. Scott also refused to allow the girls’ mothers to remain during classes because it would be “disruptive,” she said.

Scott targeted his first documented victim in 1996, groping her and warning her not to tell anyone, court documents show. He had her lie down on a piano bench while he lifted the waistband of her underwear, according to testimony at the trial. Six years later, she reported the interaction to Music Makers in Rancho Santa Margarita, although Scott was no longer working there by then.

Many of the girls were abused at Scott’s Lake Forest home, records show. One victim was 7 years old when she started lessons. He slipped pornographic magazines into her music sheets and groped her, authorities said. Scott also forced one teen to spread her legs in a metronome exercise and showed her pornography while he molested her over and under her clothes.

Inside the house, he had a photography room where he took seminude photos of the girls, prosecutors said. He took pictures of one young girl at Coast Band Music in Mission Viejo, and in some of the photographs, she was sipping water from a phallic-shaped bottle, records show.

Scott was accused of approaching a 17-year-old girl on the street in May 2006 and offering pay her to model for pictures. Two narcotics detectives witnessed the activity and stopped Scott, but he was not charged after he said he did not think the girl was a minor. She did not participate in the trial.

Court records also show Scott sexually assaulted a girl when she was 11 after claiming he was a doctor examining her. Although the girl informed her family of the assault, no charges were brought against Scott at the time.

Scott’s attorney, Ed Munoz, asked the trial judge to parse what was innocuous behavior from more severe conduct, noting his client “trained and instructed hundreds of people.”

Harrison, who represents one of the victims who was abused from ages 8 to 11, said, “It has been very difficult for her to have the process go on so long,” noting that the trial was delayed several times.

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