Stacey Abrams’ Brother-in-Law Arrested for Human Trafficking in Tampa

The brother-in-law of former Georgia governor candidate Stacey Abrams has been arrested in Tampa on charges of human trafficking.

Jimmie Gardner, 57, was taken into custody by police on Friday after allegedly engaging in sex acts with a 16-year-old girl. Gardner reportedly met the victim at the Renaissance Hotel at International Plaza in the early hours of the morning before offering her money in exchange for sex.

“Jimmie Gardner, a youth motivational speaker and brother-in-law of former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, is facing serious charges of human trafficking and is currently in jail in Hillsborough County with no bond,” police said in a statement Friday. “Gardner is scheduled to face a judge in first appearance court in Tampa tomorrow.”

“Tampa Police arrested Gardner this morning after his 16-year-old victim called police to report Gardner committed sex acts on her at the Renaissance Hotel at International Plaza. His victim says Gardner paid her money and later became angry and choked her when she refused to have sex. His booking charges include human trafficking, lewd and lascivious touching of certain minors, and battery.”

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Gardner previously spent 27 years in prison after being convicted of rape in 1989. He was later exonerated.

Just two years after his release, he married U.S. District Judge Leslie Abrams Gardner, the sister of former Georgia state representative Stacey Abrams.

“Gardner, who was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in 1984, was wrongly convicted in the 1987 sexual assault of two women in West Virginia. He was exonerated in 2016 and released from prison 27 years after his wrongful conviction. Two years later, he married Georgia Federal Judge Leslie Abrams Gardner. He currently lives in Georgia and works as a motivational speaker and emotional intelligence trainer for students and people who were formerly incarcerated.”

In a 2018 interview with the Daily Mail following his release, Gardner expressed optimism, saying he believed that “everything happens for a reason.” He told the outlet, “I’m not going to say it’s OK, being convicted of a crime I didn’t commit, but we, as humans, go through things for a purpose.”

Gardner would later obtain a degree in communications from Chapman University with the support of his wife.

In 2021, the Orange County Register reported,

Gardner plans to use his communications degree to continue sharing his story, shedding light on other wrongful conviction cases and inspiring people to keep fighting for justice.

“I never gave up,” Gardner said. “Now I want to bring awareness and keep individuals informed on how you should react in these situations and how you survive to see another day.”

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Gardner remains in custody in the Hillsborough County Jail amid an investigation.

In a statement, State Attorney Suzy Lopez commented, “Everyone is entitled to the presumption of innocence. Our attorneys will prosecute this case as we would any other offender who is alleged to have committed these crimes. We take these charges very seriously.”

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