City Police Detective Testifies to Being Told to Wait in Executing Gardner Search Warrant (Gardner trial Friday First Report)

Sonia Richardson of the Falls Church Police Department delayed three weeks in executing a search warrant of Michael Gardner’s home last summer after being told of “a possible conflict of interest,” she 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 ordered her to delay, Richardson responded that it came from a superior.

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

Richardson added that she was not told to stop investigating the case or not to send evidence for forensic testing.

Just after calling the defendant’s wife, Falls Church City Council member Robin Gardner, to the witness stand, defense attorney Peter Greenspun abruptly shifted course and called Richardson to testify. Robin Gardner is expected to appear as a defense witness in court this afternoon, and the couple’s twin children also appear on the defense’s witness list.

An eight-year employee of the Falls Church Police Department, Richardson testified 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 first explained as attributable 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.