Opening Statements Expected in Gardner Case Today
Unusually long jury selection prolongs opening statements from counsel.
Judge Benjamin Kendrick will hear opening statements today in the sexual battery case against Michael A. Gardner.
The Arlington County Circuit Court judge spent all Monday selecting a 12-person jury — plus two alternates — to hear the case. Loudoun County Deputy Commonwealth Special Attorney Nicole Wittman said the selection process was longer than expected but was needed in a case of this magnitude.
"It takes time to get a fair jury sometimes," she said to a group of prospective jurors.
The trial is expected to run through Friday and possibly Monday.
Gardner is charged with three counts of aggravated sexual battery against a minor under 13 years old and a single count of object penetration against a minor under 13.
Wittman said she plans to call the three alleged victims and their parents to the stand this week along with several Falls Church police officers and a DNA expert. Jonathan Shapiro, co-counsel for Gardner, said he plans on calling his client’s wife, Robin Gardner, to the stand. Robin Gardner is a current Falls Church councilwoman and former mayor of the city.
"Not guilty," were Michael Gardner’s only words during his arraignment.
Gardner served as chairman of the Falls Church City Democratic Committee from 2006 to 2007. He was arrested in June 2011 and charged with two counts of aggravated sexual battery and a single count of object sexual penetration.
He is accused of touching two girls in a sexual manner during a birthday sleepover for his daughter. They were 9 and 10 at the time. A third alleged victim, who was 10 years old at the time, has accused Gardner of touching her in a sexual manner in a separate incident. The third girl testified in July about the separate incident, which allegedly happened June 16.
Gardner posted $50,000 bond following his arrest.