FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:October 4, 2012
Contact: Heather F. WilliamsonCommonwealth’s Attorney’s Office20 East Market StreetLeesburg, VA 20176-2809(703) 777-0242
LOUDOUN PROSECUTORS RECOGNIZED BY FALLS CHURCH POLICE DEPARTMENT FOR EFFORTS IN SPECIAL PROSECUTION
LEESBURG, Virginia – October 3, 2012. City of Falls Church Police Chief, Harry Reitze, along with members of his command staff, travelled to Leesburg to recognize Loudoun Prosecutors. Chief Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Nicole Wittmann and Senior Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Alex Amato were presented with awards of recognition for their “dedication, selfless commitment, tremendous compassion for the young victims and their families, spirit of cooperation, and invaluable assistance provided to the City of Falls Church Police Department and the citizens of this community during the course of the investigation and trial of Commonwealth v. Michael A. Gardner.”
Gardner, a civic activist, newspaper columnist, and husband of city councilwoman and former mayor of Falls Church, Robin Gardner, was charged in June 2011 with sexual offenses involving three pre-teen girls. The Loudoun County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office was appointed as “Special Prosecutors” and Commonwealth’s Attorney Jim Plowman assigned Wittmann and Amato to take the lead. “When we were first asked to handle this case, I immediately thought of Ms. Wittmann and Ms. Amato, who are extremely skilled trial attorneys and very familiar with these types of cases.” The Arlington County Circuit Court assigned a special prosecutor due to the Arlington Commonwealth’s Attorney’s community involvement with the Gardner family, which presented a potential conflict of interest. Gardner was represented by Fairfax attorney, Peter Greenspun.
Wittmann and Amato spent countless hours preparing for trial, making numerous trips to Arlington to meet with victims, their families, and law enforcement involved in the case. The trial commenced in April 2012, and after more than a week of testimony, an Arlington County jury found Gardner guilty of two counts of aggravated sexual battery and one count of object sexual penetration. The jury recommended Gardner serve a 22 year sentence in the Virginia Department of Corrections and imposed a $15,000 fine.
A final sentencing hearing was held on September 7, 2012 before Circuit Court Judge Benjamin Kendrick, who presided over the trial. Kendrick imposed the jury recommendation.
During the award presentation, Chief Reitze also recognized Falls Church Detective Sonya Richardson for her persistent efforts and remarkable determination on behalf of the child victims. Reitze expressed how fortunate the department and the citizens of Falls Church were to have two prosecutors and a detective so devoted to the prosecution of this case. “In my tenure as Chief of Police this was the biggest case that I’ve been involved in, especially because of the potential impact it could have on our community.”
Wittmann has been with the Loudoun County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office for over seven years. Prior to joining Loudoun, she spent seven years with the Arlington County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office and over two years with the Sarasota State’s Attorney’s Office in Florida.
Amato has also been with the Loudoun County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office for seven years. Prior to joining Loudoun, she spent over seven years as an Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney in Arlington County and over four years as an Assistant Public Defender in the City of Alexandria.