Loudoun Prosecutor Has History of Tackling Tough Cases
Special prosecutor appointed last summer in Falls Church case that's being heard in Arlington County.
Nicole Wittmann has a history of tackling tough cases — particularly those involving sex crimes and child abuse.
Wittmann is the special prosecutor in the sex abuse trial under way this week in Arlington County Circuit Court. The case involves three young girls who have accused Falls Church political activist Michael Gardner of touching them inappropriately.
Gardner is the former chairman of the Falls Church City Democratic Committee and his wife, Robin, is a sitting councilwoman and former mayor.
Arlington and Falls Church comprise the state's 17th Judicial Circuit and share a commonwealth's attorney in Theo Stamos. Last summer, after Gardner was arrested, Stamos and then-Commonwealth's Attorney Dick Trodden asked a judge to grant a special prosecutor to avoid a conflict of interest or, perhaps more importantly, the appearance of a conflict.
The judge granted the request.
Stamos, who won office in November, said the reason her office removed itself from the Gardner case was two-fold.
Stamos met the Gardners through a mutual acquaintance last year while on the campaign trail. In January 2011, Michael and Robin Gardner held a meet-and-greet for Stamos at their Falls Church home. About 20 people showed up, and a photo ran in the Falls Church News Press. Stamos posted a link to it on her Facebook page.
Also, because of the shared jurisdiction, major Falls Church crimes end up in Arlington's Circuit Court. With local government and law enforcement already working together, it would not be difficult for the average man on the street to think the two were in "cahoots," Stamos said.
"The appearance of impropriety means a lot of things to a lot of people," she said.
So, Trodden approached Loudoun County Commonwealth's Attorney Jim Plowman, and Plowman selected Wittmann.
Stamos, in an interview this week, called Wittmann "an experienced and tremendously gifted prosecutor."
In March, Wittmann was promoted to chief deputy commonwealth's attorney in Plowman's office. At the time, Plowman said in a statement that Wittmann "has consistently been one of our top trial attorneys, always willing to step in and take on difficult cases."
Editor's note: This story has been altered since publication.