SANTA ANA, Calif.—An Orange County piano instructor was convicted on March 14 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 didn’t want 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 on 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 instructed the girl not to tell her parents about what happened.
The girl didn’t 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. Scott sexually assaulted that victim with his finger and took semi-nude photos of the girl.
Another victim was 15 when she “took racy photos with the defendant,” Bracic said. The girl put on various dresses for photos, and he insisted she undress in front of him.
The teen went to the police, but no charges were brought at the time.
In 2002 to 2005, another victim was 7 years old when she started taking lessons from Scott at her home, Bracic said.
Once he walked in on her as she relieved herself in the bathroom under the guise of ensuring she washed her hands. Scott groped her once and also slipped in pages from pornographic magazines in the music sheets. 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 didn’t 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 were 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, 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 when she was 8 to 11 at Coast Band Music in Mission Viejo, Bracic said. The defendant “took a lot of pictures of her,” the prosecutor 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 while showing her pictures of nude women, Bracic said.
The girl said she didn’t want to take lessons from him anymore, but after some negotiations, she agreed to one last make-up lesson at Coast Music. After that, she told her family what had been happening, Bracic said.
That sparked another police investigation.
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, and showed her pornographic pictures.
The youngest alleged victim was 5 to 6 years old in September through May 2013 when she took lessons, Bracic said. That girl was autistic, the prosecutor said. Bromberg dismissed charges related to that alleged victim.
Another victim took lessons in 2013–14 when she was 14 years old. The two engaged in “inappropriate talk” and Scott showed her porn.
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.
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.