News

Michael Gardner Arrest Stuns Entire D.C. Region

michaelgardnerThe arrest on Wednesday of well-known Falls Church citizen-activist Michael A. Gardner on charges of sexually abusing three young girls has shocked not only Falls Church, but the entire Washington, D.C. region, as major coverage by the area’s premiere daily, The Washington Post, the Associated Press and at least two major television news organizations, WJLA and WUSA, has demonstrated. Unfolding, updated coverage continues to appear on the web sites of these organizations in the two days since the City of Falls Church announced the arrest Wednesday afternoon, and it was first reported by the Falls Church News-Press.

michaelgardner

Michael Gardner

The arrest on Wednesday of well-known Falls Church citizen-activist Michael A. Gardner on charges of sexually abusing three young girls has shocked not only Falls Church, but the entire Washington, D.C. region, as major coverage by the area’s premiere daily, The Washington Post, the Associated Press and at least two major television news organizations, WJLA and WUSA, has demonstrated. Unfolding, updated coverage continues to appear on the web sites of these organizations in the two days since the City of Falls Church announced the arrest Wednesday afternoon, and it was first reported by the Falls Church News-Press.

Massive attention to the initial News-Press website posting has also been paid, and many comments have been added to that coverage by individual citizens.

Gardner, who according to police records reported by the Associated Press, has been charged with sexually abusing three girls, two of whom, ages 9 and 10, attended a birthday slumber party for his 10-year-old daughter Saturday night and a third, also under age 13, in a separate incident earlier. The charges are aggravated sexual battery and a count of animate object sexual penetration.

Gardner’s attorney, former Falls Church Mayor Brian O’Connor, has been quoted stating that his client has denied the allegations. “I am very confident of Mr. Gardner’s innocence,” O’Connor said. “We think this is all a misunderstanding of some kind. O’Connor spoke to the News-Press briefly on Thursday, stating that his immediate goal was to secure Gardner’s release from the Arlington Detention Center. Gardner was released on a $50,000 bond yesterday, and O’Connor has not returned calls to the News-Press since.

Reports are that attempts to contact Gardner’s wife, Falls Church City Council member and former mayor Robin Gardner, have failed. The News-Press has determined that active Facebook sites operated by both Michael and Robin Gardner have been taken down. The Gardners are the parents of twins, one male and one female. When contacted by the News-Press for comment this afternoon, the City of Falls Church Public Information Office said only, “At this time, the City has no further information or statements beyond the press release we distributed on Wednesday night.”

According to reports, shortly after the alleged incident Saturday night, the 9-year-old girl was taken to a sexual-assault nurse specialist at the Inova Fairfax Hospital where an examination was performed. According to the City of Falls Church, police conducted a number of follow-up interviews with the alleged victims and others attending the slumber party, and a saliva sample for purposes of DNA testing was taken from Gardner. The arrest occurred midday Wednesday.

Interviews with neighbors to the Gardners indicated shock but a willingness to presume innocence until proven guilty. They also expressed concern for the fallout on Robin Gardner’s political career in the City. She served as mayor from 2006 to 2010 and continues as a member of the Council.

Michael Gardner was a past president of the Falls Church City Democratic Committee and the author of a sharply-partisan blog, Blue Weeds. In the past months, he wrote guest commentaries that were published in the Falls Church News-Press. He is due in court sometime next month.