Jimmie Gardner, a well-known youth motivational speaker and brother-in-law of former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, has been arrested on human trafficking charges in Tampa. The arrest unfolded after Gardner allegedly made contact with a 16-year-old girl and invited her to his hotel room at the Renaissance Hotel at International Plaza.

According to authorities, Gardner, 57, offered money to the teenage girl for sexual acts upon her arrival. The situation escalated when the victim changed her mind, leading to a verbal argument that turned physical when Gardner reportedly put his hands around the girl’s neck, impeding her breathing. The victim promptly called 911 when Gardner left the hotel room.

Gardner now faces serious charges, including one felony count of human trafficking for commercial sexual activity on a victim under 18, one felony count of lewd or lascivious touching of a minor, and one misdemeanor count of battery.

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Who is Jimmie Gardner?

Born in South Georgia, Gardner’s life took a dramatic turn when he was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in 1984. However, a few years later, he faced conviction in the 1987 sexual assault of two women in West Virginia. Gardner spent 27 years in prison for a wrongful conviction until his exoneration in 2016.

Gardner’s life post-exoneration saw a positive shift as he married Georgia Federal Judge Leslie Abrams in 2018, who happens to be the sister of Stacey Abrams. Currently residing in Georgia, Gardner works as a motivational speaker and emotional intelligence trainer, particularly for individuals who were formerly incarcerated.

State Attorney Suzy Lopez emphasized the seriousness of the charges, stating, “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.”

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As the legal proceedings unfold, Gardner’s arrest raises questions about the complexities of his journey, from incarceration to exoneration, and the serious charges he now faces. The case will be closely monitored as it progresses through the legal system.