"I did not!"
With those three words repeated over and over Monday, Falls Church political activist Michael Gardner denied ever touching his three young accusers in a sexual manner.
Gardner took the stand in his own defense as the child molestation trial began its second week.
Gardner, the husband of Falls Church City Councilwoman and former Mayor Robin Gardner, faces charges of aggravated sexual battery and object penetration. Three of his daughter's friends, now ages 10 and 11, have accused Gardner of fondling them at sleepovers.
Asked defense attorney Peter Greenspun, "Did you ever touch these girls in any manner close to what they described?"
"No," answered Gardner.
"Have you ever had any interest in children from a sexuality point of view?" asked Greenspun.
"Absolutely not," replied Gardner.
The 48-year-old suspect testified for two hours, most of the time answering the questions of his defense attorney.
Last week, three girls took the stand to describe in detail how Gardner molested them.
One girl says she was at a sleepover last June 16 when Gardner allegedly came into his daughter's bedroom when his daughter called out for him during a thunderstorm. The 10-year-old says Gardner lay down on the floor between the girls and repeatedly touched her chest, stomach and vaginal area.
But Gardner -- who is 6 feet tall, 240 pounds -- says he never lay down between the girls.
He says the only touching occurred when the girls were playing an imaginary lightning game and ask him to connect them so lightning power could flow though them.
Gardner says he put one hand on his daughter's back, another on her guest's midriff. Asked whether he ever touched the girl in a sexual manner he replied, "No and nothing that could be construed like that."
Two other girls say Gardner molested them at a birthday slumber party in the basement held the next night.
But Gardner says because he'd been ill that week, he had little interaction with the girls. He says he woke up once during the night and did go downstairs to turn off lights and then went to the bottom of the basement stairs to check on the girls.
"It was quiet and dark and I went back upstairs," he said. Both girls say Gardner came down several times to touch them.
Asked Greenspun about one of the children, "Did you reach under her pajamas and touch her as she described?"
"No," said Gardner.
But testimony from a DNA expert last week revealed DNA with a high probability of being Gardner's was found on one girl's pajamas and another girl’s underwear.
Gardner's defense also put a spotlight on his medical history and a battle with melanoma that damaged his right arm. Gardner stood in the jury box and demonstrated that he can only lift that arm to shoulder height. Because of that, his attorneys contend he could not have possibly touched the girls in the way they describe. But the prosecution countered by showing a video of Gardner opening the front courthouse door with his right hand.
Prosecutors hoped that would convince jurors that Gardner's disability was not severe enough to keep him from unzipping one girl's sleeping bag and fondling her, as she has testified.
A series of Gardner's acquaintances, including the priest from the Episcopal church he attends, testified about his reputation in the Falls Church community. All said he's regarded as honest and trustworthy.
The prosecution and defense rested Monday. Closing arguments in the case will be delivered Tuesday.