Michael Gardner guilty: Jury recommends 22 year sentence

Gardner was found guilty on two counts of aggravated sexual battery and one of sexual abuse. (Photo: ABC7)

A former chairman of the Falls Church Democratic Committee on trial for allegedly sexually abusing girls was found guilty on three counts Wednesday.

Michael Gardner, 48, was found guilty on two counts of aggravated sexual battery and one count of the most serious sexual abuse charge. Authorities alleged he sexually assaulted girls, ages 9 and 10 on June 18 at his daughter's birthday slumber party in the basement of their Falls Church home.

The judge declared a mistrial on one count of aggravated sexual battery.

The jury on Wednesday recommended that Gardner be sentenced to 22 years behind bars.

Before beginning the sentencing phase of the trial, the parents of the victims spoke about their daughter's pain.

Then Gardner's wife Robin spoke. The former Falls Church mayor and current city council member talked of how her children love their father so much.

Then, in tears, she said, “I am in shock. It's been horrifying.”

Earlier in the trial, Gardner testified that he didn’t touch the girls.

During closing arguments prosecutors hammered away at DNA stains from Gardner. They turned up on the two little girl's underwear and pajama bottoms. The lead prosecutor asked the jury how could it have gotten there.

Three little girls, friends of Gardner's daughter, told investigators Gardner inappropriately touched them when they spent the night at the Gardner home last June.

But the defense raised the possibility they made up the story. The defense focused on dozens of inconsistencies in the girls' testimony. The attorney also called on the jury to use common sense, citing one little girl saying Gardner molested her for 45 minutes while his daughter slept just inches away.

The defense also cited the lack of any prior evidence to indicate Gardner harbored any sexual desire for children, evidence which is often found in the homes or on the computers of pedophiles.

Gardner’s wife serves as a Falls Church councilwoman and is a former mayor of Falls Church.