Michael Gardner sentenced to 22 years for molestation

A former chairman of the Falls Church Democratic Committee who was found guilty of molesting two girls during a slumber party was sentenced to 22 years behind bars on Friday.

Michael Gardner, 48, was convicted in May of molesting the girls. He was chairman of the Falls Church City Democratic Committee from 2006 to 2007. His wife Robin Gardner serves as a Falls Church councilwoman and is a former mayor of Falls Church.

“I was falsely accused and wrongly convicted of crimes I did not commit,” Gardner said in the packed courtroom shortly before he was sentenced.

A jury had recommended a 22 year sentence.

During his trial, Gardner testified that he never touched the girls, aged 9 and 11. But prosecutors said there was DNA evidence linking him to the molestations.

At the sentencing hearing, his attorney asked the judge to throw out the jury verdict, arguing the victim's testimony was inconsistent and that the DNA evidence hadn't been thoroughly investigated.

The prosecutor in the case expressed surprise that Gardner continued to maintain his innocence.

"I'm truly disappointed and shocked in a way,” says prosecutor Nicole Wittmann. “While it's his right to maintain his innocence, the evidence in this case was overwhelming."

Robin Gardner said she believes her husband is innocent.

“I have no doubt that my husband did not commit these crimes he has been found guilty of and I will stand by him,” she said.{ }

She says she’ll continue to fight for him.

"I'm numb. I'm distressed,” she says. “My children aren't here, but they know their father is going to prison, unless these appeals are successful, until the age of their grandfather."