Former Virginia Democratic Official Michael Gardner Pleads Guilty to Molestations

Former Falls Church, Virginia, Democratic official Michael Gardner has been sentenced to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to molesting a family member and two of his daughter's friends at a sleepover party.

Gardner's guilty plea on all charges and sentencing Thursday in Arlington County Circuit Court came in the midst of his trial on aggravated sexual battery.

Gardner, former chairman of Falls Church's Democratic Central Committee, was first convicted in 2012 and sentenced to 22 years in prison for molesting two girls who attended a slumber party for his 10-year-old daughter in 2011. But the Virginia Supreme Court overturned that conviction and ordered a new trial because the trial judge had improperly barred two character witnesses from testifying whether Gardner had a reputation as a good caretaker of children.

Last year, prosecutors brought additional charges after Gardner's relative came forward and said he molested her on Thanksgiving in 2009 when she was 12. Gardner, 51, visited the victim after his conviction was overturned, and she then reported the past abuse to her therapist, who called police, authorities said.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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