On November 17th, Tampa Police arrested well-connected 57-year-old Jimmie Gardner after a 16-year-old reported he invited her back to his hotel room to engage in sexual acts with Gardner.
According to reports, Gardner is the brother-in-law of former Democratic Georgia State Representative Stacey Abrams, who ran for Governor and became politically controversial, and Gardner lives in Georgia with his wife, who is a federal judge.
According to law enforcement, at approximately 1:43am, Gardner made contact with the 16-year-old juvenile female victim and invited her back to his hotel room in Hillsborough County, which she accepted.
Upon arrival at the hotel room, Gardner offered the victim money in exchange for sexual acts. The victim initially agreed but later told Gardner that she no longer wanted to engage and he became angry.
Gardner advised the victim that she needed to leave his hotel room. The two got involved in a verbal altercation that escalated to a physical dispute after Gardner placed his hands around the victim’s neck, impeding her breathing. After the dispute, Gardner left the hotel room and the victim called 911.
Upon arrival, officers were unable to make contact with Gardner at the hotel as he had already left, but contact was made with the victim on scene.
While officers were at the hotel, Gardner reported to the Tampa Police District 1 Office, where he was later taken into custody and charged with one felony count of Human Trafficking for Commercial Sexual Activity (Victim Less Than 18), one felony count of Lewd or Lascivious Touching of Minor 16 or 17 Year of Age By Person 24 Years of Age or Older, and one misdemeanor count of Battery.
The Central Florida victim was connected to the Tampa Police Victim Advocate, as well as other community resources.
Gardner is currently at Orient Road Jail. The investigation remains active.
State Attorney Suzy Lopez said her office will prosecute this case as they would any other offender who is alleged to have committed these crimes, and that they are taking these charges very seriously.