Ex-Virginia Dem. official whose child sex abuse conviction was overturned arrested in new case



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ARLINGTON, Virginia — A former Democratic Party official released from prison after his child molestation convictions were overturned was arrested Wednesday in a separate abuse case involving a family member.

Michael Gardner, 50, of Falls Church, was arrested on two felony counts of child sexual battery and was being held without bond pending a court hearing Monday.

Gardner's attorney, Peter Greenspun, didn't immediately return a call for comment.

Falls Church police spokeswoman Susan Finarelli said the new charges come after a relative of Gardner's reported that he sexually abused her in 2009 when she was under 13. The girl came forward with the allegations after Gardner was released from prison over the summer, Finarelli said.

Gardner, who had been serving a 22-year prison sentence, was released after the Virginia Supreme Court overturned his 2011 conviction of molesting two girls who attended a slumber party for his daughter's 10th birthday.

In a 6-1 decision, the justices said an Arlington County Circuit Court judge erred in barring the witnesses from testifying about whether Gardner had a reputation as a good caretaker of children. The witnesses' testimony was limited to Gardner's general reputation as an honest and law-abiding citizen.

Arlington County Commonwealth's Attorney Theo Stamos said at the time the conviction was overturned in June that there will be a retrial. Stamos is not in her office this week.

Nicole Wittman, the special prosecutor who handled Gardner's case, did not return a call seeking comment Wednesday.

Gardner had been chairman of the Democratic committee in Falls Church and his wife is a former mayor.

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