City Police Detective Testifies Newton Told Her to Delay Executing Gardner Search Warrant (Gardner trial Friday-late-afternoon update)

Sonia Richardson delayed three weeks in executing a search warrant of Michael Gardner’s home last summer after being told of “a possible conflict of interest,” the Falls Church Police Department detective told an Arlington Circuit Court today.

The statement came as Gardner’s lawyers began presenting their defense of the Falls Church resident on four felony charges of aggravated sexual battery and penetration against three young girls who visited the home last June 16-18.

Asked by Gardner’s attorney, Peter Greenspun, who had told her to delay, Richardson responded that the order came from Mollie Newton, who is Arlington County’s assistant commonwealth attorney.

“She told me to hold up,“ Richardson said.

Richardson added that she was neither told to stop investigating nor to stop sending for forensic testing.

This afternoon, the defendant’s wife, Falls Church City Council member Robin Gardner, testified that she noticed “nothing at all” unusual or emotional about the behavior of any of the eight girls at the party when they ate breakfast the morning of June 18. Two of the complainants had testified at the trial that Gardner sexually assaulted them in the basement hours earlier.

Robin Gardner also testified to her husband’s having fallen asleep prior to her the night of June 17 and that she woke up briefly at approximately 1:00 a.m. to check on the girls in the basement. When she returned to bed, she said, Michael Gardner remained asleep.

An eight-year employee of the Falls Church Police Department, Richardson told the court that more than three weeks passed between Gardner’s arrest on June 22 and her seeking and obtaining a search warrant for the home on July 14, a delay she told Greenspun was due to “logistics and manpower” matters.

Pressed further, Richardson stated that she delayed because “I hadn’t spoken to all the witnesses yet” and “because of the nature of the case, [its] being high profile, and [because] I wanted to represent everybody correctly.”

Richardson testified to finding no pornographic material in the laptop, thumb drive or cellular telephone that were among the four or five items she seized from the home last July. Greenspun had sought to establish that child molesters typically possess such material.

Greenspun’s first defense witness, Falls Church architect Jack Wilbern, testified earlier in the morning that he came to the home last Sunday to measure the basement and bedroom where the alleged attacks occurred and that he later produced scale drawings of them. He said that he had not charged Gardner for his measurements but hadn’t decided whether to charge for the drawings, which he said took several hours to complete. The drawings were displayed in court this morning.

In cross-examining Richardson, prosecutor Nicole Wittmann suggested the oddity of Robin Gardner’s laptop – the one seized by police – being the only computer found in the home, given, Wittman said, that Michael Gardner did business in the software industry and often traveled to Seattle on long business trips.

that she did not find pornography in the home of city resident Michael Gardner