According to Tampa officials, Jimmie Gardner, the brother-in-law of former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, was taken into custody on allegations of human trafficking.
The 57-year-old was detained on Friday, according to Tampa police, for allegedly trying to engage in sexual acts with a 16-year-old girl.
Gardner met the juvenile at 1:43 a.m. and invited her to his room at the Renaissance Hotel at International Plaza, according to a press statement from the Tampa Police Department.
After the girl accepted his invitation, he allegedly offered her money in exchange for having 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. 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.”
Gardner had already left the hotel when the police arrived, but they found the victim there, police said.
In 1987, Gardner was found guilty of sexually assaulting two women in West Virginia; however, he was cleared 27 years later in 2016, according to the Office of the State Attorney for the 13th Judicial Circuit. He got married federal judge Leslie Abrams Gardner two years following his release.
Police said Gardner reported to the Tampa Police District 1 Office. He was taken into custody on accusations of human trafficking for commercial sex with a victim under the age of eighteen, lewd or lascivious touching of a juvenile by someone 24 years of age or older, and a misdemeanor count of battery.
“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,” State Attorney Suzy Lopez said.
Gardner, who was previously selected by the Chicago Cubs in the 1984 MLB Draft, is currently employed in Georgia as a “motivational speaker and emotional intelligence trainer for students and people who were formerly incarcerated,” according to officials.