Career prosecutors have recommended against filing sex-trafficking charges against Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL).
The Washington Post reported Friday, citing anonymous sources “familiar with the matter,” that prosecutors informed their superiors they would not be pursuing charges against Gaetz, in connection with a sex-trafficking investigation that has been ongoing since 2020. The prosecutors said that securing a conviction in the case would be unlikely, in part because two central witnesses in the case have questionable credibility. CNN and Politico confirmed the report, citing their own sources.
The first witness at issue was a young woman whom Gaetz allegedly paid for sex in violation of federal sex trafficking laws. According to The Washington Post, the woman was allegedly involved with Gaetz years ago, when she was 17 years old. Investigators were looking into whether he paid the girl for sex, a claim which Gaetz repeatedly denied. She was also present on a trip Gaetz allegedly took to the Bahamas in 2018, but she was already 18 years old or older by then, the Post reported.
The second witness is Joel Greenberg, a then-friend of Gaetz and a former tax collector in Seminole County, Florida. In 2020, Greenberg was investigated and charged with fabricating allegations and evidence to smear a political opponent, but prosecutors charged him with additional crimes, more than 30 in total. In exchange for his cooperation with investigators, he secured a plea bargain in which prosecutors dismissed 27 of the charges filed against him and recommended a reduced prison term.
Greenberg pleaded guilty to six criminal charges, including sex trafficking of a minor, aggravated identity theft, and wire fraud. During the investigation into Greenberg, prosecutors discovered evidence that potentially implicated Gaetz in sex trafficking; investigators sought to determine whether Greenberg paid women to have sex with Gaetz and whether the two shared sexual partners, including the 17-year-old girl.
Prosecutors said that Greenberg’s testimony would be spurious because he admitted to fabricating allegations against a political opponent; in a race for tax collector, Greenberg accused his opponent, a schoolteacher, of having an inappropriate sexual relationship with a student, a strikingly similar allegation to that of Gaetz. Prosecutors also said that the woman’s testimony would not pass muster under jury scrutiny. While senior officials at the Department of Justice have not made a final decision on whether to file charges against Gaetz, the Post’s sources said that it is rare for them not to follow the advice of prosecutors. That could change as well if new evidence emerges, the sources said.
A spokesman for the Justice Department declined to comment, as did Gaetz’s lawyer. But a spokesman for Gaetz’s office did respond to news reports. “Those who told lies about Rep. Matt Gaetz are going to prison, and Rep. Matt Gaetz is going back to Congress to continue fighting for America,” the spokesman told CNN.
Gaetz did not comment personally, but on his personal Twitter account, he retweeted a tweet from journalist and podcaster Tim Pool calling the investigation “an extortion scheme against Matt Gaetz’s family.”
Gaetz announced in an interview with Axios that he was under federal investigation in March 2021, as The Daily Wire reported at the time. “The allegations against me are as searing as they are false,” Gaetz said. “I believe that there are people at the Department of Justice who are trying to criminalize my sexual conduct, you know when I was a single guy.”