Hopefully, Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-FL) brought an extra pair of clean underpants with him today as he is likely soiling the ones he’s wearing after hearing of a new development in the case of his friend and associate Joel Greenberg.
Gaetz is in even deeper peril of serious legal trouble after a court hearing involving Greenberg revealed that the indicted former Seminole County, Florida, tax collector may be cooperating with federal prosecutors as they investigate his links to the Trump-supporting Florida lawmaker.
Gaetz is alleged to have transported a 17-year-old girl across state lines and is now facing potential sex trafficking charges in an investigation that emerged while federal agents were looking into the evidence behind 33 federal charges lodged against Greenberg, ranging from identity theft to engaging in “commercial sex acts” with a minor older than 14 but younger than 18.
“We believe this case will be a plea,” assistant US Attorney Roger Handberg told the judge, while indicating that a deal is not yet finalized.
Indicted suspects usually seek plea deals when the evidence against them is so overwhelming that the chance of being acquitted by a jury is negligible.
If Greenberg does manage to successfully negotiate a plea deal with the government prosecutors, he typically would be expected to offer something of value in exchange for leniency in the charges against him and any subsequent sentencing.
Information on Congressman Gaetz’s potential involvement in the activities that he has already been linked to in the press would be a valuable asset to trade in exchange for a reduced sentence for Greenberg.
Greenberg’s attorney, Fritz Scheller, asked the judge to set a plea date by May 15.
If the negotiations fall apart, Greenberg could be headed for a trial by July, where he would be forced to publicly answer questions under oath about his behavior and his association with Congressman Gaetz.
Greenberg’s attorney acknowledged to the press after the hearing that Congressman Gaetz should start worrying about the implications of any potential plea deal.
If Greenberg does betray Rep. Gaetz by confirming his participation in the alleged sex trafficking, it will be interesting to see whether the senior Republican leadership in the House of Representatives will move to expel the Florida legislator from Congress.
With Democrats like former California Congresswoman Kate Hill and former Minnesota Senator Al Franken having been forced to resign due to the pressure from their colleagues, it seems as if this likely upcoming decision facing House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and the other House Republicans will be a turning point in the party’s complete abandonment of the social norms expected of them by the evangelical base that forms a large part of the GOP’s support among voters.
While Gaetz has denied all the charges against him, it seems unlikely that he will be able to survive the growing scandal.
Right before the news of the investigation against him surfaced, Gaetz reportedly told friends that he was considering abandoning his seat in the House to take a job as an on-air host on right-wing media outlet Newsmax.
He may want to accelerate his timetable on that transition if Newsmax would even still want him after the recent revelations.
Original reporting by Paula Reid and David Shortell at CNN.
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Vinnie Longobardo is a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music and art.