Jimmie Gardner, the brother-in-law of failed Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, has been arrested. The charges include engaging in sexual acts with a minor and physical assault, which authorities allege are related to human trafficking.
Gardner, a 57-year-old youth motivational speaker, was apprehended by the Tampa Police Department on Friday.
According to Tampa authorities, Jimmie Gardner was arrested for human trafficking. He is the brother-in-law of former Georgia governor candidate Stacey Abrams.
Tampa police arrested the 57-year-old man Friday after he allegedly attempted to engage in a sexual act with a 16-year-old girl.
According to a release by the Tampa Police Department, Gardner met the minor around 1:43 am and invited her into his room at the Renaissance Hotel International Plaza.
The girl accepted his invitation, and when she got there, he allegedly offered her money for sex, police said.
“The victim initially agreed but later told Gardner that she no longer wanted to engage and he became angry,” the release said. “Gardner advised the victim that she needed to leave his hotel room.
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According to police, Gardner was already gone from the hotel when officers arrived. However, they discovered the victim on the scene.
Gardner was arrested after his victim reported what had happened. Prosecutors claim that Gardner’s victim told them Gardner had paid for her and then became angry when she refused to go.
Gardner’s past adds a new layer of complexity to the case. He was wrongfully convicted in 1987 of sexually abusing two women in West Virginia. He was wrongfully convicted of sexual assault in 1987 and spent 27 years behind bars before he was exonerated by the court in 2016. He later married Federal Judge Leslie Abrams Gardner, Stacey Abrams’ sister, in 2018. He has been a motivational trainer and speaker since being exonerated. His focus is on emotional intelligence, especially for those who have served time in prison. Gardner received $3 million from the state in March 2019 and $175,000 from the Charleston Police Department.
Suzy Lopez is the State Attorney’s Office and she has stressed how serious her handling of Gardner’s case is.
State Attorney Lopez said:
Our attorneys will prosecute the case in the same way as they would for any other criminal accused of committing these crimes. These charges are taken very seriously.
This is an example of the challenges of combating human trafficking and the exploitation of minors. This is a problem that has persisted for a long time and continues to be a concern of the justice system and law enforcement.
Gardner is being held in Hillsborough County Jail without bail, pending future legal proceedings. Stacey Abrams has yet to make a public statement about her brother-in-law’s arrest.
In a press release, the Department of Law Enforcement emphasized its commitment to transparency in all cases, including high-profile ones. It read:
The State Attorney’s Office commits to keeping the public updated on the outcome of major court cases in order to ensure transparency. In order to foster trust, we believe that it is vital for the public to understand how our justice systems work.
We will continue to update you as new information becomes available.