Gardner Case Judge Seals Transcript of Open Hearing

In another unusual turn in the on-going pretrial maneuverings in the case involving Falls Church City resident Michael Gardner (now slated to go to trial April 23), a judge in the case signed an “emergency order to seal” last Friday mandating the M.A.R. Reporting service “not to disseminate transcripts of the proceedings from Dec. 20, 2011 in this case until further order of this court.” The order came despite the fact the hearing was open to the public and scores of witnesses were present.

The judge’s action apparently came in response to a request for a copy of the court transcript from the Falls Church-based M.A.R. Reporting by the Falls Church News-Press. That request was due to be filled the day the judge approved the seal, requested by Deputy Commonwealth Attorney Nicole Wittmann. At the Dec. 20 hearing, Peter Greenspun, the attorney for Gardner, charged with multiple counts of child molestation, entered a motion for dismissal of the case, and that remains under consideration by the court. It was earlier reported that official Commonwealth DNA results indicated that Gardner had been ruled out as a source of sperm found on the clothing of one of the alleged victims and that that victim’s own father could not be ruled out as the source. Concern for making public the identities of the alleged minor victims was not a consideration given that the hearing itself was open to the public and was the second time (the first an arraignment last summer) that the names came to light in an open courtroom.

The News-Press was present at that arraignment hearing and determined then that as a matter of editorial policy none of the names would be revealed in its editions.