At the Council chambers of the Falls Church City Hall, regularly used for district court matters on weekdays, Arlington Circuit Court Judge Esther Wiggins denied petitions today from defendant Michael Gardner for opportunities to visit with his two children, following graphic testimony by three preteen alleged victims that Gardner has been charged with sexually abusing.
Judge Wiggins ruled at today’s preliminary hearing that probable cause exists for taking the case to trial, scheduled to begin with an arraignment in the Arlington Circuit Court next week, on July 21 at 9:30 a.m.
Gardner is charged with committing two felony acts of aggravated sexual battery and one act of object sexual penetration. He has pleaded not guilty.
After initially closing the courtroom to all but the victims, their parents, social workers, Gardner’s wife, Falls Church City Council member Robin Gardner, and legal counsel, Judge Wiggins consulted with the victims and their families, and decided to open the court to reporters.
Seated next to their parents, each child was brought to the witness stand, asked to identify Gardner in the courtroom, and to describe the events that took place on the nights they claim they were assaulted. They responded to questions from prosecutor Nicole Wittman, Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney for Loudoun County, and Gardner’s attorney Peter Greenspun.
Two victims said they were sleeping at the Gardner household in a basement on June 18 when Gardner repeatedly fondled them. A third victim,who slept over in Gardner’s daughter’s room on June 16, said Gardner repeatedly touched her beneath her clothing. She claimed that he whispered to her, asking if it “felt good.”
After Wiggins ruled that Gardner’s case would continue to circuit court, Greenspun asked if Gardner could be permitted to see his twin children with adult supervision. Wiggins denied the request. Greenspun again requested that Gardner be able to see his children with adult supervision in public areas, but again Wiggins denied the request.
Yesterday, Gardner’s first attorney, former Falls Church Mayor Brian O’Connor told the News-Press that he remains convinced of Gardner’s innocence. Gardner remains free on bond.
Robin Gardner came in for the hearing from a location in New Jersey where she is staying with her children. She was not present at last night’s Falls Church City Council meeting, held in the same chamber as today’s hearing.