Looks like the jury has recommended 22 years in prison and a $15,000 fine for Michael Gardner. A judge won't make that final sentence determination until September. But if he gets 22 years, his children will be in their mid-30's when he gets out. He'll have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life, looses his right to vote and own a gun, but there is a bright side for him... at least he can still run for political office in the District of Columbia.
Here are my final thoughts on this case and few tidbits I've uncovered.
The Gardners Are Destitute. According to this Washington Post article, Robin Gardner took the stand yesterday to discuss the hardship this case has had on the family. She claims that Michael Gardner, who has not been allowed to see their children since his arrest, lost his job. That's not surprising. But according to the Falls Church News-Press, she states that both she and her husband have lost their jobs over this trial. Is that true? As we've learned through this case (and in my research on the Brandon Gotwalt case), the FCNP is not exactly a reliable or unbiased source.
But with a $15,000 fine and what could easily be a $100,000 defense and down to one or no income, its likely the Gardners are in dire straights financially. I feel for their kids. Life as they know it is completely gone, in more ways than one. I'm far less sympathetic for Robin Gardner, as she had no compunction going after Brandon Gotwalt, a young Navy vet who responded to a woman's cries for help in the middle of the night and ended up having his life ruined financially.
More Irony. One of the longer controversies going on in Falls Church is the proposed building of a Hilton Garden Inn. Opponents of the project have stated that the hotel would be too close to St. James Catholic School, thus providing a base of operations for pedophiles to prey on children. Michael Gardner, on his Blueweeds blog, made lots of jabs at this argument and the people making it. I guess the project opponents may have been onto something.
The Commonwealth's Prosecution. Patch.com ran a fairly interesting piece on Nicole Wittman, the Loundon prosecutor especially assigned to this case. Wittman was assigned to prosecute Gardner because the Arlington/Falls Church Commonwealth Attorney-elect, Theo Stamos, knew the Gardners and had done political fund-raising at private parties in their house. While there is no indication Wittman did anything but prosecute this case with the vigor the people of this Commonwealth demand, there still needs to be an investigation into the Arlington prosecutors office and the Falls Church Police Department regarding the delayed search warrant.
WUSA9. People of my tilt tend to be very cynical of the media these days. And the Falls Church News-Press only confirms our bias. However, one local outlet, WUSA9, was on the story from the very start and never let it go. They even pulled down some of Gardner's racier Blueweeds posts, before Gardner demolished the blog, and read excerpts on the air. These same posts were used by Prosecutor Wittman to rebut some of the character testimony for Gardner. So I think WUSA9 deserves a pat on the back for keeping this story in the light and not letting the Falls Church News-Press be the only source.