Second Child Takes Stand in Falls Church Sex Case

11-year-old says Gardner touched her several times in one night

A second little girl testified Wednesday in the child molestation trial of Falls Church community activist Michael Gardner.

Sounding far more confident then the previous 10-year-old witness, an 11-year-old fifth grader testified Gardner touched her inappropriately three times when she attended a birthday sleepover for his daughter last June 18.

Gardner is charged with sexually molesting three of his daughter's friends, two at the slumber party and one at a sleepover the previous night.

On the witness stand, the 11-year-old testified she was wearing monkey pajamas and was fast asleep on an air mattress on the basement floor when someone began rearranging her comforter around four in the morning.

Asked prosecutor Nicole Wittman: " Do you know who it was?"

The child answered, "Mr. Gardner."

Wittman: "How do you know it was Mr. Gardner?"

Witness: "I could see his face when I woke up."

The girl said she mumbled thank you and that Gardner went back upstairs, but that he returned a short time later.

"He came back downstairs and started touching me on my vagina," the child testified.

"Did you do anything?" asked the prosecutor.

"No... I wasn't sure what to do.... I felt very scared... I didn't feel frozen. I could move but I felt really nervous," she said.

The girl said the pattern was repeated twice more. The last time, she said, Gardner began to pull on the waistband of her pajamas.  She says that's when she "pretended to wake up" so he would stop. 

She said Gardner then asked her if she was OK. When she said yes, he went back upstairs. During one of his trips to the basement, the girl said, she also saw Gardner walk over to another girl who was on the couch.

The witness said she told her father about what had happened as soon as he picked her up the next day, and they headed to a doctor's appointment.  When she got back home, her mother called police.

In cross-examination, Gardner's attorney Peter Greenspun questioned whether the girl could really see the defendant's face in the dark basement, but the child insisted there was enough light coming in from the windows. 

Gardner's wife is a Falls Church councilwoman and former mayor. Gardner has denied the allegations against him.

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