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AUSTIN EDITION -- Molester sentenced to 14-year prison stay

By Amy Olson

aolson@postbulletin.com

An Austin man described as a sexual predator will spend the next 14 years in prison for molesting four boys over more than a 10-year period.

In an emotional court hearing, Mower District Court Judge Fred Wellmann on Friday afternoon sentenced Gary G. Gardner, 45, to 172 months in prison. Wellmann found Gardner's molestation of the boys over more than 10 years made him a pattern sex offender. The sentence is double what the state's guidelines recommend for a first-degree criminal sexual conduct conviction.

Prosecutors say Gardner could be subject to indefinite lockup in a mental health institution if he continues to be a threat to public safety.

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One after another, as Gardner stared at the table, the boys' family members told how Gardner's abuse tore their lives apart. The father of one victim said his son began having trouble in school and was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder before they learned of the abuse.

"What he did will affect my son for the rest of his life," he said. The man told Wellmann his son wants was to see Gardner in prison for the rest of his life.

The father also read a letter in court written by the boy's mother.

"I hope you never take another breath without feeling the anguish you have caused so many people," he read.

"I just can't explain what it's like to be a mom and find out he molested my child," said another mother. "He's torn my family apart."

Mower County Attorney Patrick Oman read a letter from a victim, asking the court to keep Gardner behind bars indefinitely to protect other children.

"Gary should rot in hell for all eternity," Oman read.

In addition to the 14-year prison sentence, Oman asked Wellmann to add a five-year parole term if and when Gardner is released.

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Gardner said nothing. His attorney, Evan Larson, asked Wellmann to adopt the Department of Corrections' recommendations.

Based on the pattern of abuse and psychiatric evaluations, Wellmann said Gardner met the definition of a sexual predator who poses a danger to public safety and therefore warranted the longer sentence.

Oman said that under the state's sexual psychopathic law, Gardner could be subject to commitment to a mental health facility after serving his sentence if he poses a threat.

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