Assistant DA happy where fate brought him | NevadaAppeal.com
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Assistant DA happy where fate brought him

F.T. Norton
Appeal Staff Writer

If you subscribe to the belief that everything happens for a reason, Gerald Gardner’s path to Carson City as assistant district attorney is a chain of unplanned purpose.

Born in Brunswick, Maine 42 years ago, Gardner spent much of his life traveling the world with his family for his father’s job. New York. Atlanta. Dallas. Connecticut. Vermont.

There was even a three-year span when the Gardners were in Paris.

In 1983, Gardner graduated from high school in Connecticut and enrolled in Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio.

“I went to college right away,” he said, noting he chose Kenyon because of its liberal arts program.

There, the future criminal lawyer, studied literature and majored in philosophy.

A year after graduating from Kenyon, Gardner took on Cornell Law School in Ithaca, NY.

“I think I had always planned on going to law school. I always wanted to know the law just to protect myself and protect my constitutional rights,” he said.

As Gardner was preparing for graduation, across the country the Clark County District Attorney’s Office was growing. Gardner said they were sending out recruitment notices to law schools west of the Mississippi. A glitch in the plan resulted in them accidentally sending out notices to law schools east of the Mississippi. Gardner got one of those dispatches and upon his graduation, applied and was accepted for a position as a deputy district attorney in Las Vegas.

There he handled various criminal cases starting in the traffic division, then moving to robberies and murders. He said he worked homicide cases for five years with the Special Victims Unit, including about a dozen shaken-baby death cases.

It was during his time as deputy district attorney, Gardner met his wife, Stephanie. The couple married in 1999.

Stephanie had plans of her own, applying to the John J. School of Criminal Justice.

“Basically, I came home one day and she said she’d gotten accepted,” he said.

In August 2000 the couple found a place in Dobbs Ferry, NY., and Gardner found work in Manhattan for a consumer protection and securities fraud firm while Stephanie attended school.

A year later, the eyes of the world would be on Manhattan during the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Gardner recalls arriving that day in his office in midtown Manhattan and learning of the attack when they began to evacuate his 56-story building near Penn Station.

“I was just arriving in Manhattan when the first plane hit and just getting to my office when the second one hit,” he said.

By the time he got to Grand Central Station for the trip home, the trains had been stopped.

“It took me six hours to get home. I literally walked from Penn Station to Riverside in the Bronx,” he said.

With intermittent cell phone access, Gardner was able to let Stephanie know he was OK.

He said she was keeping family and friends in Las Vegas updated.

“She was able to maintain contact with them by sending e-mails giving the progress on my trek out.”

Her e-mails made their way throughout the Clark County District Attorney’s Office.

On Sept. 12, then-Clark County District Attorney Stu Bell called Gardner and gave him a “standing offer,” to return to Vegas.

Two months later Bell called again with an actual vacancy.

Gardner said New York was hectic. He was working 12- to- 14-hour days and though Manhattan had great potential for a full social life, the long working hours were taking a toll.

With Stephanie expecting the couple’s first child and missing her family the decision to return was an easy one.

“We just wanted to get back to a more normal life.” he said.

In the first year back, Gardner worked as a deputy district attorney and the couple welcomed their first son, Bennett, into the world. Two years later would come his little brother, James.

When an offer as chief of the criminal division for the Nevada Attorney General’s Office came, Gardner said it was too good to pass up.

He was called on to lead the attorneys that prosecuted such criminal cases as those in the prisons and official misconduct cases by state employees and politicians. Gardner was the chief of an investigation into misconduct that resulted in the impeachment of Controller Kathy Augustine.

It was during his time at the Attorney General’s Office when Gardner was promoted to Las Vegas office chief and he met Neil Rombardo who was working in the Bureau of Consumer Affairs.

As office chief Gardner supervised 95 employees including 65 attorneys.

When Rombardo was elected as Carson City District Attorney, he asked Gardner to join him and he accepted.

“What I’m doing now is much more similar to what I was doing as the criminal chief. A district attorney’s office does so much. They have such a higher volume of criminal cases. One of the most surprising things for me is just how busy this office is,” he said. “The fortunate thing for me is these are all things that I’ve had some experience with.”

Gardner said it took a trip to Carson City and some convincing to get his Southern Nevada bride keen on the idea.

But the couple is now glad that they took the chance.

“She really likes it and the kids love it,” he said. “My older boy, Bennett, who is 5, woke up one morning and saw the snow and said, ‘I’ve been waiting my whole life for this.'”

• Contact reporter F.T. Norton at ftnorton@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1213.