Attorney: Gardner 'Ruined' as Jury Deliberations Begin
Commonwealth, defense present three hours of closing arguments Tuesday.
Attorneys in the sex abuse trial of Falls Church political and civic activist Michael Gardner gave long, emotional closing arguments Tuesday in Arlington County Circuit Court.
Gardner, 48, is accused of molesting three young girls last summer — one, his daughter's best friend who was sleeping over one night in June; the other two, the next night during a birthday slumber party.
During the short recesses Tuesday, Gardner spoke and sat briefly with his wife, Robin, and family and friends. Robin Gardner is a former mayor of Falls Church and a sitting councilwoman.
He has formally been charged with three counts of aggravated sexual battery against a minor under 13 years old, each of which carries a prison sentence ranging from one to 20 years. He has also been charged with a single count of object penetration against a minor under 13, which carries a sentence of five years to life in prison.
Ultimately, a 12-member jury will determine Gardner's guilt or innocence. But because of the attention the case has received, "He, in a lot of ways, is ruined, no matter what happens here," defense attorney Peter Greenspun told the jury.
The court's gallery was packed for most of the three hours of closing arguments.
Prosecutor Nicole Wittmann summarized the stories of the three young girls who have accused Gardner of touching them inappropriately last summer.
The girls were 9 and 10 at the time, and Wittmann described in graphic detail the examination performed on one the girls who accused Gardner of sexual abuse.
"She was 9 years old. She's not in her house. She's not with her parents. And he's a grown-up," Wittmann said. "And he's a lot bigger than she is."
Further, Wittmann said the jury would see photographic evidence that one of the girls was wounded when Gardner sexually abused her. She was adamant that DNA matching Gardner proved he attacked the girls. His DNA was found on some of the girls' garments.
But some of the DNA recovered from the clothes did not belong to Gardner. His defense suggested that it was simply transferred in the regular laundry cycle, indicating an ease of transfer of cells from one person or item to another.
Greenspun referred to the children at the slumber party as being "in the swimming pool of Gardner DNA."
More simply, he argued that the commonwealth had not proved Gardner's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Greenspun talked about the emotional toil the trial had taken on the Gardners, with Michael Gardner being publicly made out to be a "deviant," a "pervert" and a "child abuser."
He criticized the state for putting on display a short blog post written by Gardner several years ago that made reference to "my little hotties." Little Hotties is the name brand of a handwarmer, ones the Gardners used when they attended the inauguration of President Barack Obama.
Such a move was an act of "desperation," part of the prosecution's larger strategy of using "smoke and mirrors," Greenspun said.
Greenspun, who spoke for nearly two hours, didn't accuse the girls of lying, but said the inconsistencies in their stories were normal for kids — or witnesses, for that matter.
Greenspun said he counted more than 60 inconsistencies in the commonwealth's case against his client.
Wittmann, in her final rebuttal of Greenspun, said, "He never presented evidence that these girls weren't sexually assaulted. And that only leaves one question — Who assaulted them? And there's really no question about that."
Jury deliberations are under way.