Even though the news has been rumored for quite some time, the official guilty plea by Joel Greenberg, the Republican Seminole County, Florida tax collector whose legal troubles include charges of sex trafficking a minor and which have implicated Trump-loving Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-FL) in his scandals, created quite a stir when it was announced this morning.
By agreeing to the plea bargain, Greenberg has essentially given up the chance to declare his innocence and have his guilt determined by a jury of his peers, betting that by cooperating with federal prosecutors and testifying about others involved in his criminal activities, he will receive a lighter sentence than if he went to trial and was found guilty of the multiple charges against him.
The 86-page plea agreement that Greenberg signed contains “hard corroboration” of the crimes “of not only Joel Greenberg but the crimes of others,” former federal prosecutor Glenn Kirschner told MSNBC this morning, adding that the prosecution has detailed “some really troubling crimes” including the admission that Greenberg had knowingly solicited and paid a minor for sex and the implication that his crimes involved other parties as well.
“I think one of the most ominous features of this plea agreement … is the last of the six charges Joel Greenberg just pleaded to is a charge for a conspiracy to commit offenses against the United States,” Kirschner said. “What does that tell us? Well, of necessity, a conspiracy means you have co-conspirators, because that is a requirement under the law of conspiracy that you agreed with one or more persons to commit crimes against the United States and you took one step towards the commission of those crimes, what we call an ‘overt act.'”
“So, we already know by virtue of this plea, there are co-conspirators who are likely to be indicted and held accountable, we just don’t quite know who they are,” Kirschner added.
So far, the person most likely to be cowering in fear over Greenberg’s cooperation with prosecutors is Representative Gaetz, who faced an avalanche of social media commentary on his culpability in the now-disgraced tax collector’s crime spree, but not a lot of sympathy.
Here are some of the posts that circulated on Twitter in the wake of Greenberg’s guilty plea.
Gaetz is about to find out what "no honor among thieves" means.
— PoppaBear (@APoppaBear) May 16, 2021
The video I want to see is Gaetz getting arrested at a Gaetz/Greene event, MTG interfering and getting tased.
— EisenNears (@EisenNears) May 17, 2021
Just sit back and try to envision Matt Gaetz first hour in prison!
Brings a smile to my face!
— Gene Seybold (@SeyboldGene) May 17, 2021
There’s no way Greenberg would get this deal if he wasn’t bringing Gaetz down with him. https://t.co/EmpNeHd1v9
— John T (@TMROJ) May 17, 2021
Matt Gaetz is about to go through some things.
— finely GET VACCINATED ✍️ (@tunedhuman) May 17, 2021
Matt Gaetz has a bachelors and a degree in law but he waited until joining congress to pickup a minor.
— Ryan Abshire (@nomanaking) May 17, 2021
I wonder if Gaetz’ll have the same smile on his face when he goes up the river for statutory rape https://t.co/fMUf9Dd5qV
— Gary Michael Shephard (@RealGaryShep) May 17, 2021
Golly, I hope this doesn't interrupt Matt Gaetz's current tour. We would all just hate to see him get arrested on stage spouting off lies to a bunch of brainwashed senior citizens.
— Michael (@stillperfect72) May 17, 2021
Joel Greenberg is pleading today,
He's guilty, but what else will he say?
Let's not be crude,
And say Gaetz is screwed,
But it certainly is looking that way.#limericks
— The Limerick Take (@ithinksoguey) May 17, 2021
With the guilty plea now entered in the court proceedings, it remains to be seen exactly if and when federal prosecutors will file charges against any of Greenberg’s co-conspirators.
With a cooperating witness now incentivized to spill the beans on others involved in his illicit schemes and sex crimes, the questions over Gaetz’s ability to continue as a member of Congress in good standing are getting harder and harder for the GOP to ignore.
Given that the party just demoted its number three leader in the House of Representatives simply because Rep. Liz Cheney wouldn’t agree to support Donald Trump’s lies about election fraud, it seems that continuing to support Congressman Gaetz if he is charged with sex trafficking a minor would be unconscionable.
If Gaetz was smart, he’d resign now to save the Republicans the trouble of a battle over his removal. That, however, is a big “if” that, given the things that he is suspected of having done, doesn’t seem too likely.
Original reporting by Travis Gettys at RawStory.
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Vinnie Longobardo is the Managing Editor of Occupy Democrats. He's 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.