Gardner Trial to Start Tuesday

Opening arguments will be heard Tuesday morning in Arlington Circuit Court in the trial of Falls Church resident Michael Gardner on four felony charges of aggravated sexual battery and animate object sexual penetration involving three young girls.

In her presentations to the juror pool, prosecuting attorney Nicole Wittmann mentioned that her list of 13 witnesses scheduled to testify at the trial includes the three girls allegedly attacked, along with the mother of one and the fathers of two others. The 23 defense witnesses announced by one of Gardner’s lawyers, Jonathan Shapiro, include Gardner’s wife, Falls Church City Council member Robin Gardner, along with their son and daughter, who are twins. Shapiro told prospective jurors that he has not yet decided whether Gardner will take the stand in his own defense, and cautioned them not to assume anything untoward if Gardner ultimately does not testify.

Five rounds of jury selection Monday yielded 26 prospective jurors, a number that will be whittled down to 14 (including two alternates) first thing Tuesday morning before the panel is sworn in. Both the prosecution and defense estimated that the trial will run through Friday or next Monday before being handed to the jury.

Judge Benjamin Kendrick rejected a defense motion Monday morning to hold two separate trials due to the alleged acts having been committed on separate occasions last June. Kendrick also said he would wait “until the appropriate time” in the trial to rule on a defense motion to transport the jury to Gardner’s home to view the bedroom and basement in which the alleged attacks occurred.

Three women among the 10 prospective jurors in the day’s final pool were dismissed after indicating that they found the charges disturbing. Two of the three are elementary-school teachers. In an earlier pool, a grandmother of two girls stated that as a juror, “I would not presume Mr. Gardner guilty, but I would certainly be thinking about my little granddaughters. … I would hope I could be impartial, but the allegations are upsetting.” She was dismissed, together with another woman who concurred with the comments.

Family members of the alleged victims and friends of the defendant attended Monday’s proceedings.