The husband of a former Falls Church mayor was sentenced to 22 years in prison Friday for crimes against two young girls in his own home.
Michael A. Gardner, 48, was convicted in May of two counts of aggravated sexual battery and one count of object penetration, the most serious charge against him. He was received the full sentence recommended by the jury.
Gardner was accused of molesting two girls during his daughter's slumber party in June 2011. He has denied the charges, but the victim's parents say they believe their daughters.
They are willing to go public, but because of the nature of the crimes, NBC Washington is not identifying them.
One victim's father choked up after learning another father he trusted will spend more than two decades in prison. "I think it was the right sentence," he said. "I'm very happy with the judge and I think he did right by our girls."
"We had the utmost trust in the Gardners and... if it hadn't been our daughter I might have been one of the people writing a letter on his behalf, [but] it was our daughter," he continued.
During his sentencing hearing, Garner again stated he is innocent. "A cry for help from one distressed child visiting my home has been hijacked and that miscarriage has cast us into darkness," he said.
Gardner's wife, former Falls Church Mayor Robin Gardner says she believes her husband. "Yes I do [believe him], and I will fight for him with every fight that I have in me."
The Gardners, once seen as pillars of the community, are now fighting to repair their reputation.
"I'm numb, I'm distressed," said Robin Gardner at the courthouse Friday. "My children are not here and they know their father will be in prison unless the appeals are successful, until, as they say, [their father is] the age of their grandfather, and that distresses them."
The prosecutors pointed out that the convicted sex offender never accepted responsibility or showed remorse, but the victims' parents say that something that will likely never happen.
"I don't think he has the ability within himself to admit what he truly is," said a victim's father.
During Gardner's trial, the two victims, now 11 years old, testified that Gardner came into the basement where the girls were sleeping several times around 4 a.m. on June 18, 2011.
One victim said she was awakened when Gardner unzipped her sleeping bag and began touching her inappropriately. She said he later returned to molest her again. DNA with a high probability of being Gardner's was found on her underwear.
The second victim testified that Gardner knelt down next to her mattress several times and touched her genital area. She said at first she pretended to be asleep, but eventually let him know she was awake, after which he left.