A 10-year-old girl this morning identified Falls Church resident Michael Gardner as the man who last June fondled her and penetrated her with his finger.
Standing up in the witness stand just before noon, the girl pointed to Gardner, sitting across and to her left in the 10th floor court room in Arlington Circuit Court, as her assailant. She was the first witness to be called in the trial of Gardner on four felony counts of aggravated sexual battery and object sexual penetration, allegedly committed at his home during his daughter’s slumber birthday party.
Wearing gray-rimmed tinted glasses because, she said, she was nervous, the witness related that Gardner stood behind the basement couch on which she slept, unzipped her pink Sleeping Beauty sleeping bag, fondled her, left and then returned and inserted his finger inside “my girl parts.”
The witness stated that the action “hurt” her and that she rolled around in an unsuccessful effort to put a stop to it. She later pointed to a large diagram to indicate where on her body the alleged attack occurred.
In between the two episodes, she said, Gardner approached another girl sleeping on the L-shaped couch, and that she “was able to hear” him fondle that girl, too.
The girl testified that she did not say anything that night to the other girls sleeping in the room or to Gardner’s wife Robin, a Falls Church City Council member, at breakfast the next morning. Because of the physical pain, she stated, she told another friend while hiding in an upstairs closet in the morning.
Gardner also is charged with aggravated sexual assault against two girls, who will be called by the prosecution to testify in a trial that is expected to run through Monday.
Immediately before the testimony began this morning, the nine-female, five-male jury (including two alternates) was sworn in, with the 12 remaining members of Monday’s jury pool dismissed by Judge Benjamin Kendrick.
Assistant commonwealth attorney for Loudoun County Alex Amato and Peter Greenspun, one of Gardner’s two defense attorneys, delivered opening statements. “This is one of the most horrible experiences you’ll ever have. This is horrible,” Greenspun told the jury. He urged them to “hear the evidence for what it is” and to “keep an open mind.”