Apr 8, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Gaetz associate negotiating plea deal in sex trafficking case

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) speaking at CPAC in February 2021.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) speaking at CPAC in February 2021 in Orlando. Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Joel Greenberg, an associate of Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), is in plea negotiations after being charged with sex trafficking of a minor, according to his lawyer, the Washington Post reports.

Why it matters: A plea deal may indicate that Greenberg, a former tax collector in Seminole County, Florida, is open to cooperating with investigators by providing information though it's unknown how deep the negotiations are.

Context: The Justice Department launched an investigation into Gaetz for sexual activity with women after first investigating Greenberg and indicting him last year on a federal sex trafficking charge and other crimes, according to the New York Times.

  • Investigators believe Greenberg met women through websites for dates in exchange for gifts, fine dining, travel and allowances and also introduced the women to Gaetz, who had sex with them, according to the Times.
  • The federal investigation is also examining whether Gaetz violated federal sex trafficking laws by having a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old and paying for her to travel with him.
  • Gaetz has denied ever paying woman for sex and has claimed that the investigation is part of a criminal extortion scheme against him and his family.

The big picture:: During court-ordered meeting for Greenberg's case, federal prosecutor told a judge he expected the case to end with a plea agreement.

  • An attorney for Greenberg then asked the judge to set a deadline of May 15 for the two sides to either reach a deal, or move forward with a trial, according to the Post.

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