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Falls Church Man Gets 22 Years for Molesting Girls

The convicted child molester was sentenced Friday for sexually assaulting girls who spent the night at his daughter's sleepover.

Falls Church resident Michael Gardner, during his daughter’s sleepover birthday party last year, was sentenced Friday morning to 22 years in prison.

The girls who attended the party, held in June 2011, were ages 9 and 10.

Judge Benjamin Kendrick gave Gardner, husband of former Falls Church mayor Robin Gardner, all of the 22 years a jury recommended earlier this year.

Gardner and his wife, who were surrounded by family and supporters in a packed courtroom, appeared stoic when they heard the sentence.

Before Kendrick, who spent most of the three-hour sentencing hearing squinting with his fingers resting on his temples, announced his decision, Gardner read a statement maintaining his innocence.

"I have been falsely accused and wrongfully convicted of crimes I did not commit," said Gardner. "A cry for help from one distressed child who was visiting my home has been hijacked, and that miscarriage has cast us into darkness."

But Kendrick told Gardner that the guilty verdict delivered by the jury refuted his credibility. "We put a lot of faith in our jury system," Kendrick said. "They did not believe you."

The father of one of the victims said he was satisfied with the sentence. "I think [Kendrick] did right by our girls," he said, holding back tears. "If it hadn't been my daughter I would have a really hard time believing it was true."

He said he "couldn't be more proud" of his daughter for coming forward and telling her parents what had happened. 

"If you're a kid, you've got to talk to your parents," he said. "And if you're a parent, you've got to listen to your kids."

When asked if the family intended to appeal, Gardner's attorney, Peter Greenspun, said, "Absolutely."

"Michael's family is deeply troubled and dismayed by the unjust verdict and the sentence passed down in this case," Greenspun said. "They know that Michael is innocent and will appeal and support that appeal."

Gardner's wife also maintained his innocence, but said she was not entirely surprised by the sentence.

"I did not find the sentencing unexpected," she said. "As traditionally goes with these, the judge usually stays by what the jury's decision is. I am not distressed. My children are not here. They know that their father is going to be in prison, unless the appeals are successful, until, as they say, the age of their grandfather, and that distresses them."

She thanked those who had supported her and her family throughout the ordeal. "I know that we will continue on our road of life and continue fighting for Michael."

Greenspun also said that the Gardner family was troubled about the "selective" investigation by police.

Nicole Wittman, chief deputy commonwealth's attorney for Loudon County, said after the sentencing that she was not surprised by Gardner's lack of remorse.

"I am not surprised, because he has the right to maintain his innocence," she said. "But I am truly disappointed."

Ralph McGehee September 07, 2012 at 06:35 PM
May God have mercy on Michael Gardner, his family, and most importantly, may God protect and guide the young girls and their family's that have been affected by this tragedy.
Ken Feltman September 07, 2012 at 08:35 PM
Ralph, your words sum up my feelings, too. This sad day will not put an end to the suffering caused to everyone - the girls and their families and friends, Mr. Gardner and his family and friends, and those of us in the community who care when some among us are hurt or harmed. May God bless and keep us all, everyone of us.
Mark Harnet September 07, 2012 at 09:05 PM
It is doubtful this man tried to touch these girls inappropriately in this situation. It is like the Salem witch trials.
Jason H. September 07, 2012 at 09:19 PM
Mark - I have not followed the case too closely so I don't know all the details. What raises doubts about the verdict?
Jillian September 08, 2012 at 07:06 AM
This PEDOPHILE should have got LIFE! He has children! I wouldn't doubt he abused his own daughter also! What do you all think, he'll admit what he did it?! Like OJ did right? I hope he is SODOMIZED EVERYDAY ALL DAY for the entire sentence OR that they kill him! His children are better off without him!
Thomas Jefferson September 08, 2012 at 01:07 PM
I'd like to think that people at least try to be informed when they express an opinion about anything, especially a situation like this one. Like Mr. Harnet, who evidently was not privy to all of the evidence presented during this trial, or has not seriously read up on the Salem Witch Trials. Otherwise, his comment might be a bit more understandable. Not only was the evidence overwhelming (there was a lot more to be considered than what was presented in various news reports), but the minor children involved continued to be victimized during yesterday's sentencing. Though the judge even acknowledged that Gardner has a wonderfully competent attorney, it didn't change the evidence presented or how the jury agonized over the decision. Uninformed comments like these are disrespectful of the legal system, which is vastly skewed toward the defense, as well as the surviving victims. I'd say it's more than doubtful that Mr. Harnet knows what he's talking about.
Thomas Spencer September 09, 2012 at 03:05 AM
Salem Witch Trials? His skin D&A was on the child's underwear and panamas. Guilty.
In Arlington September 10, 2012 at 05:05 PM
Reply to Thomas Jefferson... Based on what I know of the evidence as reported by local news sources, I would likely not have found this man guilty. However, I know, as you allude, that not all the evidence will have been reported by local news sources. What additional evidence did the jury have to consider than what was reported? For instance, was the accusation of the girl at the first sleepover made completely independently of the accusations of the the two girls at the subsequent sleepover? If the two sets of accusations were made indepently, that would be pretty d*mning. I suspect that this is not the case, however.
In Falls Church September 18, 2012 at 06:55 PM
In Arlington....."based on what I know of the evidence.....I would likely not have found this man guilty".... what is your point? You don't know all the evidence and of course you would find him not guilty.
Jennifer Champoux January 25, 2014 at 01:43 AM
I actually know the other child who was molested by this sick bastage. She is still trying to deal with what this sicko did to her---granted she is doing MUCH better now, but she is scarred by this make no mistake.

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