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Man Bolts From Courtroom After Arson, Intimidation Conviction

CROWN POINT, Ind. (STMW) -- A few minutes after a Lake Superior Court jury had convicted him of arson and intimidation, James E. Gardner III took off running, but was quickly caught.

Gardner had asked if he could hug his wife. His hands handcuffed, Gardner kissed the woman and then left the courtroom with a bailiff through the back hallways of the courts building at the government center on the way to the Lake County Jail. Gardner, however, cut back through the courtroom, but was apprehended by court staff.

After less than two hours of deliberations on Thursday, jurors convicted Gardner, of the 8000 block of Hemlock Avenue, of arson in a Dec. 10, 2008, fire in the 8500 block of Pine Avenue in the Miller section, the residence of his former girlfriend, Kaneka Turner. Gardner also was convicted Thursday of intimidation involving Turner.

Deputy prosecutors Salina Malone and Reginald Marcus presented evidence in the case, which was investigated by Gary police Detective Sgt. Mark Salazar.

In April 2012, a jury convicted Gardner of two counts of stalking, a class C felony, battery, a class C felony, stalking, a class D felony, and two misdemeanors – harassment and criminal mischief, but deadlocked on three counts of arson, criminal confinement and intimidation. On Thursday, jurors acquitted Gardner of two counts of arson involving an Oct. 9, 2008, fire at Turner's father's home, and of criminal confinement of Turner.

Judge Diane Ross Boswell scheduled a June 18 sentencing hearing. Gardner faces six to 20 years on the most serious of the counts.

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2013. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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