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."