My advice: Be skeptical … be at least somewhat skeptical. We keep seeing a lot of smoke around Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and the alleged investigation into potential sex-trafficking charges, but not much fire. Thus far no one’s proffered any solid evidence of wrongdoing on his part.
Having his travel pal on the cusp of cutting a deal with prosecutors probably isn’t a great development for Gaetz, though:
A Florida politician at the center of an investigation into Rep. Matt Gaetz is negotiating with federal prosecutors to resolve his own sex-trafficking and other charges, a potentially ominous sign for Gaetz if his associate decides to cooperate in a bid for leniency.
Joel Greenberg, the former tax collector for Seminole County, Fla., was initially charged last summer in a bare-bones indictment that prosecutors have since superseded, adding charges of sex trafficking of a minor, stealing from the tax office and even trying to use fraud to get coronavirus relief money while out on bond. In the course of the investigation into his conduct, people familiar with the matter have said, federal authorities came across evidence that Gaetz (R-Fla.) might have committed a crime and launched a separate investigation into him.
At a status conference in Greenberg’s case on Thursday, federal prosecutor Roger Handberg told a judge that he expected a plea, though negotiations are ongoing. Fritz Scheller, an attorney for Greenberg, asked the judge to set a deadline of May 15 for the two sides to either reach a deal or move toward a trial in the summer.
Having your pal’s attorney publicly gloat over it at your expense is also not an encouraging sign of where this is heading:
Reporter: “Did your client introduce Matt Gaetz to any underaged girls for sexual relations?”
Fritz Scheller, attorney for Joel Greenberg: pic.twitter.com/Y3qQA4468R
— The Recount (@therecount) April 8, 2021
Yeah, that’s … not good at all. However, it’s also not evidence of anything, either. Scheller has every reason to hype his client’s value to prosecutors — he’s trying to negotiate the best deal possible for Greenberg. He also might be trying to worry Gaetz and his team enough to help out in Greenberg’s defense. We’ve seen enough grandstanding attorneys over the past few years (in every direction possible) to learn to reserve judgment until they start submitting claims in court and presenting the evidentiary basis for scrutiny.
Another reason to reserve judgment: For the first time, we’re hearing some speak out in explicit defense of Gaetz, too. This is more character witness than evidence, but it’s not insignificant either:
Today, the Women of U.S. Congressman Matt Gaetz’s (FL-01) official office released the following statement in full support of the Congressman:
“After the shocking allegations last week in the press, we, the women of Congressman Matt Gaetz’s office, feel morally obligated to speak out. During Congressman Gaetz’s time in office, we have been behind the scenes every step of the way. We have staffed his meetings. We have planned his events. We have traveled with him. And we have tracked his schedule. Congressman Gaetz has always been a principled and morally grounded leader. At no time has any one of us experienced or witnessed anything less than the utmost professionalism and respect. No hint of impropriety. No ounce of untruthfulness.
In our office and under Congressman Gaetz’s leadership, women are not only respected, but have been encouraged time and time again to grow, achieve more, and ultimately, know our value. Many of us started in entry-level positions and have been promoted to positions of leadership within the office. In our professional ecosystem, women are given every opportunity to advance and utilize our talents to help the country in the best possible way.
On every occasion he has treated each and every one of us with respect. Thus, we uniformly reject these allegations as false.
Congressman Gaetz will continue to lead by example and stand for the people of America who have been maligned by the liberal elite. And we will stand with him. While we recognize the scrutiny we will face for making this decision, we take comfort in the hope that more Americans and elected officials will stand up and refuse to remain silent.”
The statement did not include the individual names of those providing the testimony; the statement was signed “The women of the Office of US Congressman Matt Gaetz”. According to the Daily Caller, though, all eight of his female staffers signed off on the statement. This does not mean that Gaetz didn’t commit some sort of wrongdoing, of course, but the people in his office should know his behavior better than most. With Gaetz reportedly looking for a media gig, the staffers will not likely need to worry much longer about covering for their boss either.
And if they have indeed “tracked his schedule” while in office, they’d know better than most about any of his travel partners, at least those while on official duty.
In other words, despite Scheller’s cryptic comments, we don’t know anything more about the allegations than we did yesterday. And until we see evidence, the best strategy is to keep an open mind.