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Rep. Matt Gaetz unlikely to be charged in sex trafficking investigation

Career prosecutors have recommended against charging Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) in a long-running sex trafficking investigation, telling Justice Department superiors that a conviction is unlikely in part because of questions of credibility with the two central witnesses, according to the people. familiar with the matter.

Senior department officials have not made a final decision on whether to charge Gaetz, but such advice is rarely rejected, these people told The Washington Post, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the deliberations. They added that it is always possible that additional evidence will emerge that could alter prosecutors’ understanding of the case.

However, federal authorities are unlikely to charge Gaetz with a crime in an investigation that began in late 2020 and focused on his alleged relationship with a 17-year-old girl. several years before. Gaetz, The 40-year-old has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, saying he has never paid for sex. She has also said that the only time she had sex with a 17-year-old was when he was also 17 years old.

Gaetz’s attorney, Isabelle Kirshner, declined to comment. A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment.

Gaetz sought the related pardon from the Justice Department. Sex trafficking investigation, people familiar with the matter say

Investigators set out to determine whether the congressman paid for sex in violation of federal anti-sex trafficking laws and have examined his dealings with the then 17-year-old, people familiar with the matter have said. Earlier this year, a federal grand jury in Orlando heard testimony from associates of Gaetz, including a former girlfriend.

The ex-girlfriend was among several women on a trip Gaetz allegedly took to the Bahamas in 2018 that has been of particular interest to investigators. The 17-year-old in question in the investigation was also on that trip, though she was already 18 or older at the time, people familiar with the matter said. She has been a central witness in the investigation, but people familiar with the case said she is one of two people whose testimony has issues that veteran prosecutors believe would not pass with a jury.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) first got involved in politics a decade ago. It didn’t take him long to find stardom in the Republican Party. (Video: Drea Cornejo/The Washington Post, Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

The other is a former friend of Gaetz’s, Joel Greenberg, a former tax collector for Seminole County, Florida. He pleaded guilty last year to sex trafficking of a minor and a series of other crimes as part of a cooperation agreement with authorities.

Greenberg was first charged in 2020 with fabricating allegations and evidence to defame a political opponent, but prosecutors continued to investigate and added additional charges to his case. He ultimately agreed to plead guilty to six criminal charges, including sex trafficking of a child, aggravated identity theft and wire fraud.

Sex trafficking investigation involving Matt Gaetz, explained

In exchange for his guilty plea, prosecutors agreed to dismiss the other 27 charges Greenberg faced and recommend a term within federal sentencing guidelines, which are often much less than the statutory maximum sentences. They also agreed to recommend other potential sentence breaks.

If Greenberg provided “substantial assistance” in building other cases, prosecutors could ask a judge to deviate below the required minimum sentence, according to Greenberg’s plea agreement. His sentencing is scheduled for later this year.

It was in exploring Greenberg’s conduct that investigators found evidence potentially implicating Gaetz in sex trafficking, people familiar with the matter said. Prosecutors had been exploring whether Greenberg was paying women to have sex with Gaetz and whether the two shared sexual partners, including the 17-year-old girl at issue in Greenberg’s case, these people said.

Like the Department of Justice. came to investigate Rep. Matt Gaetz

Gaetz, who represents a largely conservative district in the Florida panhandle, is known as a strident supporter of former President Donald Trump. The investigation into him was opened during the Trump administration and proceeded with the approval of then-Attorney General William P. Barr.

Greenberg has been providing investigators with information about Gaetz since last year, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Greenberg’s credibility would be a major challenge to any prosecution of Gaetz, in part because one of the crimes Greenberg admitted to was fabricating accusations against a school teacher who was running against him to be a tax collector. Greenberg had sent letters to the school falsely claiming that the teacher was having an inappropriate sexual relationship with a student, an allegation similar to the Gaetz case.

“No one is going to believe anything Joel Greenberg says on his own. His statements would have to be corroborated by testimony or evidence,” David Bear, a lawyer for the school teacher, said Friday.

Greenberg also pleaded guilty to a number of other crimes, including robbing the tax collector’s office and defrauding a government loan program that provided relief to businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Olivia Julianna turns Matt Gaetz’s insult into a weapon to raise money for abortion

Gaetz’s case took an especially bizarre turn when authorities accused a Florida business executive of trying to extort money from the congressman’s wealthy father as part of a scheme to secure a presidential pardon for the younger Gaetz amid the ongoing investigation. about sex trafficking.

Business executive Stephen M. Alford eventually pleaded guilty in 2021 to wire fraud. Authorities say he approached Gaetz’s father, Don Gaetz, and told him he could “guarantee” his son a pardon in the sex-trafficking case, as part of a convoluted $25 million scheme that also involved an effort to find to a long-lost ex-FBI agent. Instead of paying him, Don Gaetz went to the FBI and secretly recorded the conversations.

Last week, The Washington Post reported that Gaetz told a former White House aide, John McEntee, that he was seeking a preemptive pardon from Trump shortly before Trump left office.

According to people familiar with McEntee’s testimony before the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the US Capitol, McEntee said Gaetz told him that while he had done nothing wrong, “they are trying to to make his life hell, and you know, if the president could give him a pardon, that would be great.”

Gaetz said he had apologized to White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, McEntee testified, according to these people, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss their testimony.

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